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Publication highlights

Some of our best science published in 2018

July 16: Tianfei Liu, Meiyuan Guo, Andreas Orthaber, Reiner Lomoth, Marcus Lundberg, Sascha Ott  and  Leif Hammarström  published an article in Nature Chemistry:

Accelerating proton-coupled electron transfer of metal hydrides in catalyst model reactions.

Abstract: Metal hydrides are key intermediates in catalytic proton reduction and dihydrogen oxidation. There is currently much interest in appending proton relays near the metal centre to accelerate catalysis by proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET). However, the elementary PCET steps and the role of the proton relays are still poorly understood, and direct kinetic studies of these processes are scarce. 

Here, we report a series of tungsten hydride complexes as proxy catalysts, with covalently attached pyridyl groups as proton acceptors. The rate of their PCET reaction with external oxidants is increased by several orders of magnitude compared to that of the analogous systems with external pyridine on account of facilitated proton transfer. Moreover, the mechanism of the PCET reaction is altered by the appended bases. A unique feature is that the reaction can be tuned to follow three distinct PCET mechanisms—electron-first, proton-first or a concerted reaction—with very different sensitivities to oxidant and base strength. Such knowledge is crucial for rational improvements of solar fuel catalysts.


June 14: Melina Gilbert Gatty,  Sonja Pullen,  Esmaeil Sheibani,  Haining Tian,  Sascha Ott and  Leif Hammarström  published an article in Chemical Science:

Direct evidence of catalyst reduction on dye and catalyst co-sensitized NiO photocathodes by mid-infrared transient absorption spectroscopy. 

Abstract: Co-sensitization of molecular dyes and catalysts on semiconductor surfaces is a promising strategy to build photoelectrodes for solar fuel production. In such a photoelectrode, understanding the charge transfer reactions between the molecular dye, catalyst and semiconductor material is key to guide further improvement of their photocatalytic performance. 

Herein, femtosecond mid-infrared transient absorption spectroscopy is used, for the first time, to probe charge transfer reactions leading to catalyst reduction on co-sensitized nickel oxide (NiO) photocathodes. The NiO films were co-sensitized with a molecular dye and a proton reducing catalyst from the family of [FeFe](bdt)(CO)6 (bdt = benzene-1,2-dithiolate) complexes. Two dyes were used: an organic push–pull dye denoted E2 with a triarylamine–oligothiophene–dicyanovinyl structure and a coumarin 343 dye. Upon photo-excitation of the dye, a clear spectroscopic signature of the reduced catalyst is observed a few picoseconds after excitation in all co-sensitized NiO films. However, kinetic analysis of the transient absorption signals of the dye and reduced catalyst reveal important mechanistic differences in the first reduction of the catalyst depending on the co-sensitized molecular dye (E2 or C343). While catalyst reduction is preceded by hole injection in NiO in C343-sensitized NiO films, the singly reduced catalyst is formed by direct electron transfer from the excited dye E2* to the catalyst in E2-sensitized NiO films. This change in mechanism also impacts the lifetime of the reduced catalyst, which is only ca. 50 ps in E2-sensitized NiO films but is >5 ns in C343-sensitized NiO films. Finally, the implication of this mechanistic study for the development of better co-sensitized photocathodes is discussed.

April 17: Alagappan Annamalai, Robin Sandström, Eduardo Gracia-Espino, Nicolas Boulanger, Jean-François Boily, Inge Mühlbacher, Andrey Shchukarev and Thomas Wågberg published an article in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces:

Influence of Sb5+ as a Double Donor on Hematite (Fe3+) Photoanodes for Surface-Enhanced Photoelectrochemical Water Oxidation. 

Abstract: To exploit the full potential of hematite (α-Fe2O3) as an efficient photoanode for water oxidation, the redox processes occurring at the Fe2O3/electrolyte interface need to be studied in greater detail. Ex situ doping is an excellent technique to introduce dopants onto the photoanode surface and to modify the photoanode/electrolyte interface. In this context, we selected antimony (Sb5+) as the ex situ dopant because it is an effective electron donor and reduces recombination effects and concurrently utilize the possibility to tuning the surface charge and wettability. In the presence of Sb5+ states in Sb-doped Fe2O3 photoanodes, as confirmed by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, we observed a 10-fold increase in carrier concentration (1.1 × 1020 vs 1.3 × 1019 cm–3) and decreased photoanode/electrolyte charge transfer resistance (∼990 vs ∼3700 Ω). Furthermore, a broad range of surface characterization techniques such as Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, ζ-potential, and contact angle measurements reveal that changes in the surface hydroxyl groups following the ex situ doping also have an effect on the water splitting capability. Theoretical calculations suggest that Sb5+ can activate multiple Fe3+ ions simultaneously, in addition to increasing the surface charge and enhancing the electron/hole transport properties. To a greater extent, the Sb5+- surface-doped determines the interfacial properties of electrochemical charge transfer, leading to an efficient water oxidation mechanism.

March 28: Quentin Daniel, Lele Duan, Brian J. J. Timmer, Hong Chen , Xiaodan Luo, Ram Ambre, Ying Wang, Biaobiao Zhang, Peili Zhang, Lei Wang, Fusheng Li, Junliang Sun, Mårten Ahlquist , and Licheng Sun published an article in ACS Catalysis:

"Water Oxidation Initiated by In Situ Dimerization of the Molecular Ru(pdc) Catalyst."

Abstract: The mononuclear ruthenium complex [Ru(pdc)L3] (H2pdc = 2,6-pyridinedicarboxylic acid, L = N-heterocycles such as 4-picoline) has previously shown promising catalytic efficiency toward water oxidation, both in homogeneous solutions and anchored on electrode surfaces. However, the detailed water oxidation mechanism catalyzed by this type of complex has remained unclear. In order to deepen understanding of this type of catalyst, in the present study, [Ru(pdc)(py)3] (py = pyridine) has been synthesized, and the detailed catalytic mechanism has been studied by electrochemistry, UV–vis, NMR, MS, and X-ray crystallography. Interestingly, it was found that once having reached the RuIV state, this complex promptly formed a stable ruthenium dimer [RuIII(pdc)(py)2-O-RuIV(pdc)(py)2]+. Further investigations suggested that the present dimer, after one pyridine ligand exchange with water to form [RuIII(pdc)(py)2-O-RuIV(pdc)(py)(H2O)]+, was the true active species to catalyze water oxidation in homogeneous solutions.

March 1: Rui Miao, Hao Xie, Felix Ho and Peter Lindblad published an article in Metabolic engineering:

Protein engineering of α-ketoisovalerate decarboxylase for improved isobutanol production in Synechocystis PCC 6803.

AbstractProtein engineering is a powerful tool to modify e.g. protein stability, activity and substrate selectivity. Heterologous expression of the enzyme α-ketoisovalerate decarboxylase (Kivd) in the unicellular cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC 6803 results in cells producing isobutanol and 3-methyl-1-butanol, with Kivd identified as a potential bottleneck. In the present study, we used protein engineering of Kivd to improve isobutanol production in Synechocystis PCC 6803. Isobutanol is a flammable compound that can be used as a biofuel due to its high energy density and suitable physical and chemical properties. Single replacement, either Val461 to isoleucine or Ser286 to threonine, increased the Kivd activity significantly, both in vivo and in vitro resulting in increased overall production while isobutanol production was increased more than 3-methyl-1-butanol production. Moreover, among all the engineered strains examined, the strain with the combined modification V461I/S286T showed the highest (2.4 times) improvement of isobutanol-to-3M1B molar ratio, which was due to a decrease of the activity towards 3M1B production. Protein engineering of Kivd resulted in both enhanced total catalytic activity and preferential shift towards isobutanol production in Synechocystis PCC 6803.

February 9Ben Johnson, Asamanjoy Bhunia, Honghan Fei, Seth M. Cohen, and Sascha Ott published an article in Journal of the American Chemical Society:

Development of a UiO-Type Thin Film Electrocatalysis Platform with Redox-Active Linkers.


Metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) as electrocatalysis scaffolds are appealing due to the large concentration of catalytic units that can be assembled in three dimensions. To harness the full potential of these materials, charge transport to the redox catalysts within the MOF has to be ensured. Herein, we report the first electroactive MOF with the UiO/PIZOF topology (Zr(dcphOH-NDI)), i.e., one of the most widely used MOFs for catalyst incorporation, by using redox-active naphthalene diimide-based linkers (dcphOH-NDI). 

Hydroxyl groups were included on the dcphOH-NDI linker to facilitate proton transport through the material. Potentiometric titrations of Zr(dcphOH-NDI) show the proton-responsive behavior via the −OH groups on the linkers and the bridging Zr-μ3-OH of the secondary building units with pKa values of 6.10 and 3.45, respectively. When grown directly onto transparent conductive fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO), 1 μm thin films of Zr(dcphOH-NDI)@FTO could be achieved. Zr(dcphOH-NDI)@FTO displays reversible electrochromic behavior as a result of the sequential one-electron reductions of the redox-active NDI linkers. Importantly, 97% of the NDI sites are electrochemically active at applied potentials. Charge propagation through the thin film proceeds through a linker-to-linker hopping mechanism that is charge-balanced by electrolyte transport, giving rise to cyclic voltammograms of the thin films that show characteristics of a diffusion-controlled process. The equivalent diffusion coefficient, De, that contains contributions from both phenomena was measured directly by UV/vis spectroelectrochemistry. Using KPF6 as electrolyte, De was determined to be De(KPF6) = (5.4 ± 1.1) × 10–11 cm2 s–1, while an increase in countercation size to n-Bu4N+ led to a significant decrease of De by about 1 order of magnitude (De(n-Bu4NPF6) = (4.0 ± 2.5) × 10–12 cm2 s–1).

Feb 12. 2018: Andrea Pavlou, Julien Jacques, Nigar Ahmadova, Fikret Mamedov and Stenbjörn Styring published an article in Scientific reports

The wavelength of the incident light determines the primary charge separation pathway in Photosystem II


Charge separation is a key component of the reactions cascade of photosynthesis, by which solar energy is converted to chemical energy. From this photochemical reaction, two radicals of opposite charge are formed, a highly reducing anion and a highly oxidising cation. We have previously proposed that the cation after far-red light excitation is located on a component different from PD1, which is the location of the primary electron hole after visible light excitation. Here, we attempt to provide further insight into the location of the primary charge separation upon far-red light excitation of PS II, using the EPR signal of the spin polarized 3P680 as a probe. We demonstrate that, under far-red light illumination, the spin polarized 3P680 is not formed, despite the primary charge separation still occurring at these conditions. We propose that this is because under far-red light excitation, the primary electron hole is localized on ChlD1, rather than on PD1. The fact that identical samples have demonstrated charge separation upon both far-red and visible light excitation supports our hypothesis that two pathways for primary charge separation exist in parallel in PS II reaction centres. These pathways are excited and activated dependent of the wavelength applied.

Jan. 15: Lívia S. Mészáros,  Brigitta Németh, Charlène Esmieu, Pierre Ceccaldi  and Gustav Berggren published an article in Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

In Vivo EPR Characterization of Semi‐Synthetic [FeFe] Hydrogenases.


EPR spectroscopy reveals the formation of two different semi‐synthetic hydrogenases in vivo. [FeFe] hydrogenases are metalloenzymes that catalyze the interconversion of molecular hydrogen and protons. The reaction is catalyzed by the H‐cluster, consisting of a canonical iron–sulfur cluster and an organometallic [2Fe] subsite. It was recently shown that the enzyme can be reconstituted with synthetic cofactors mimicking the composition of the [2Fe] subsite, resulting in semi‐synthetic hydrogenases. Herein, we employ EPR spectroscopy to monitor the formation of two such semi‐synthetic enzymes in whole cells. The study provides the first spectroscopic characterization of semi‐synthetic hydrogenases in vivo, and the observation of two different oxidized states of the H‐cluster under intracellular conditions. Moreover, these findings underscore how synthetic chemistry can be a powerful tool for manipulation and examination of the hydrogenase enzyme under in vivo conditions.

Last updated August 22 2018