Stabilization of reactive Co4O4 cubane oxygen-evolution catalysts within porous frameworks

Andy I. Nguyen, Kurt M. Van Allsburg, Maxwell W. Terban, Michal Bajdich, Julia Oktawiec, Jaruwan Amtawong, Micah S. Ziegler, James P. Dombrowski, K. V. Lakshmi, Walter S. Drisdell, Junko Yano, Simon J. L. Billinge, T. Don Tilley
Year of publication: 
Proceedings of the national academy of sciences

A major challenge to the implementation of artificial photosynthesis (AP), in which fuels are produced from abundant materials (water and carbon dioxide) in an electrochemical cell through the action of sunlight, is the discovery of active, inexpensive, safe, and stable catalysts for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER). Multimetallic molecular catalysts, inspired by the natural photosynthetic enzyme, can provide important guidance for catalyst design, but the necessary mechanistic understanding has been elusive. In particular, fundamental transformations for reactive intermediates are difficult to observe, and well-defined molecular models of such species are highly prone to decomposition by intermolecular aggregation. Here, we present a general strategy for stabilization of the molecular cobalt-oxo cubane core (Co4O4) by immobilizing it as part of metal–organic frameworks, thus preventing intermolecular pathways of catalyst decomposition. These materials retain the OER activity and mechanism of the molecular Co4O4 analog yet demonstrate unprecedented long-term stability at pH 14. The organic linkers of the framework allow for chemical fine-tuning of activity and stability and, perhaps most importantly, provide “matrix isolation” that allows for observation and stabilization of intermediates in the water-splitting pathway.//

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