Researchers pioneer molecular catalyser

Apr 16, 2012
Researchers pioneer molecular catalyser

Scientists in Sweden have developed a molecular catalyser with the ability to quickly oxidise water to oxygen. Presented in the journal Nature Chemistry, the results are a significant contribution to the future use of solar energy and other renewable energy sources, especially since gasoline prices continue to soar.

The team from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm is the first to attain speeds that are comparable to those in nature's own photosynthesis, thus succeeding in clinching a . Researchers in Europe, Japan and the United States have been investigating ways of refining an artificial form of photosynthesis for over 30 years. No team ever succeeded in generating a sufficiently rapid solar-driven catalyser for oxidising water.

'Speed has been the main problem, the bottleneck, when it comes to creating perfect artificial photosynthesis,' explains Professor Licheng Sun from the Department of Chemistry at KTH.

The molecular catalyser developed by Professor Sun and his team is so fast that it can reach more than 300 turnovers per seconds. The speed with which natural photosynthesis is carried out is between 100 and 400 turnovers per seconds.

'This is clearly a world record, and a breakthrough regarding a molecular catalyser in ,' remarks Professor Sun. 'This speed makes it possible in the future to create large-scale facilities for in the Sahara, where there's an abundance of sunshine. Or to attain much more efficient to electricity, combining this with traditional , than is possible today.'

This is especially important as society continues to deal with rising . According to the scientists, the fast molecular catalysers can form the basis for many changes to come. Not only do they enable sunlight to be used for the conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) into different fuels like , but the technology can be used to convert solar energy directly into hydrogen.

The next step for the researchers is to develop this technology at lesser cost.

'I'm convinced that it will be possible in 10 years to produce technology based on this type of research that is sufficiently cheap to compete with carbon-based fuels,' the chemist says. 'This explains why [US President] Barack Obama is investing billions of dollars in this type of research.'

Professor Sun has been conducting research in this field for almost 20 years, saying that he and his colleagues believe efficient catalysers for oxidation of water can be the missing piece of the solar energy puzzle.

'When it comes to , using the Sun is one of the best ways to go,' Professor Sun says.

Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden and the Dalian University of Technology (DUT) in China contributed to this study.

Explore further: New material steals oxygen from the air

More information: Duan, L. et al. 'A molecular ruthenium catalyst with water-oxidation activity comparable to that of photosystem II', Nature Chemistry, 2012. doi:10.1038/nchem.1301

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User comments : 10

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hopefulbl
2.7 / 5 (3) Apr 16, 2012
RUTHENIUM CATALYST!!! How the heck is this practical with the 74th abundant element on the planet and one of the most expensive...hope someone finds an asteroid composed of pure ruthenium out there that they can bring to earth.
Telekinetic
3.5 / 5 (4) Apr 16, 2012
RUTHENIUM CATALYST!!! How the heck is this practical with the 74th abundant element on the planet and one of the most expensive...hope someone finds an asteroid composed of pure ruthenium out there that they can bring to earth.

"The next step for the researchers is to develop this technology at lesser cost."- from the article
It'll happen in due course.
Eikka
3.3 / 5 (3) Apr 16, 2012
"The next step for the researchers is to develop this technology at lesser cost."- from the article
It'll happen in due course.


Kinda like how researchers have been trying for the past 30 years to find a cheaper alternative to platinum in certain types of fuel cells.
Telekinetic
3 / 5 (2) Apr 16, 2012
"The next step for the researchers is to develop this technology at lesser cost."- from the article
It'll happen in due course.


Kinda like how researchers have been trying for the past 30 years to find a cheaper alternative to platinum in certain types of fuel cells.

And that too shall come to pass-

http://www.scienc...3118.htm
Azoulas
3 / 5 (3) Apr 16, 2012
Materials and technology do not appear simply because we think they ought to.

This article is over-enthusiastic hand-waving, and even misleading. I am amazed at the near-religious faith in the cult of technological progress.

"The next step for the researchers is to develop this technology at lesser cost."- from the article
It'll happen in due course.


Kinda like how researchers have been trying for the past 30 years to find a cheaper alternative to platinum in certain types of fuel cells.

And that too shall come to pass-
Telekinetic
2.5 / 5 (4) Apr 16, 2012
"Materials and technology do not appear simply because we think they ought to."- Azoulas

You must belong to the cult that believes technological progress comes at its own pace, unhindered by corporate interests or the religious prejudices of governments, and brought forth for the good of the people.
tom_foremski
not rated yet Apr 16, 2012
Ironic design proves there's a god - Professor Sun heads photosynth breakthrough...
italba
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 17, 2012
"Oxidise water to oxygen"???
In the "Chemistry" section of a (supposed) scientific site????
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Apr 20, 2012
You must belong to the cult that believes technological progress comes at its own pace, unhindered by corporate interests or the religious prejudices of governments, and brought forth for the good of the people.


The key word here is "unhindered".

Yes, you can hinder the progress of technology, but you can't make it go any faster than it goes given human limitations, opportunities, connections of events and plain dumb luck of discovery. Given ideal conditions, all the money you can muster, all the best scientists in the world, you still can't guarantee that you can find the right materials for the job in the next 20, 30, 50 years, or perhaps ever. Maybe it's a dead end after all. You won't know until you know.

The biggest idiocy here is the idea that we'd have all the fuel cells and catalyzers for synthetic fuels today if someone wasn't hindering the progress of science. It's placing malice before simple incompetence, because it's easy to just believe, and hope.
jerryd
not rated yet Apr 22, 2012

I, you can make almost free H2 from heating biomass to 1500F, but what do you do with it? If not used directly then storing it costs too much both to pump and contain it.