Materials Science Research Lecture
Abstract: The efficient generation of molecular hydrogen from sunlight and water is one of the holy grails of 21st century science. Hydrogen is a clean, renewable fuel that could play a key role in meeting the world's skyrocketing demand for energy. Several investigators have employed hydrogenases as catalysts coupled to cathodes for H2 production, as these enzymes can operate in water with very high turnover frequencies. But these enzymes are not stable under aerobic conditions, so much recent work has focused on robust inorganic materials. Among the more promising candidates, we have found that Ni–Mo nanopowders and metal phosphide nanocrystals have catalytic efficiencies near that of platinum for hydrogen evolution from water. We also have developed mixed-metal nanostructured catalysts for the production of oxygen from water. There is an urgent need to find even better water oxidation catalysts, as the protons and electrons liberated when oxygen is evolved are the fundamental particles required for sustainable energy storing reactions, not only for hydrogen production, but also for the conversion of nitrogen and carbon dioxide to fuels and chemicals.
More about the Speaker: Professor Harry Gray is the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and the Founding Director of the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology. After graduate work in inorganic chemistry at Northwestern University and postdoctoral research at the University of Copenhagen, he joined the chemistry faculty at Columbia University, where in the early 1960s he developed ligand field theory to interpret the electronic structures and reactions of transition metal complexes. After moving to Caltech in 1966, he began work in inorganic photochemistry that led to the development of light absorbers and robust catalysts for production of solar fuels. Gray has been the recipient of many prestigious awards including, most recently, the MacDiarmid Medal (U Penn, 2017), the Cotton Medal (2018) and the Westheimer Medal (Harvard, 2018). He has published over 900 research papers and 18 books