Chemists have developed a new way to split water

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(ORDO NEWS) — Often called the future of clean energy, hydrogen has the potential to revolutionize a variety of industries. However, the challenge lies in producing hydrogen efficiently and sustainably from water molecules. Chemists have long been looking for a catalyst that can activate water and ensure the splitting of hydrogen and oxygen.

Now a team of researchers led by Professor Armido Studer from the University of Münster has developed a revolutionary new photocatalytic process that activates water using triarylphosphines instead of traditional transition metal complexes.

The importance of water activation

Water molecules are highly stable, which makes it difficult to split them into hydrogen and oxygen. To carry out this reaction, water must be activated with a catalyst. Professor Studer’s team successfully activated water using the phosphine-hydrate radical cation, a unique intermediate that allows hydrogen atoms to be easily abstracted from water and transferred to other compounds.

The role of light energy

One of the key aspects of the new process is the use of light energy to stimulate the reaction. When light energy is applied through LEDs, hydrogen atoms from water are transferred to a phosphine hydrocarbon radical cation, which can then transfer hydrogen atoms to other substrates. This method provides an ideal platform for studying unexplored chemical processes that use hydrogen atoms as reactants in synthesis.

Application in various industries

The ability to activate water and easily transfer hydrogen atoms to various compounds is of great importance for various industries. Dr. Christian Mück-Lichtenfeld, who has analyzed activated water complexes using theoretical methods, explains that the weak hydrogen-oxygen bond in this intermediate allows hydrogen atoms to be transferred to a wide range of compounds.

Dr. Jingjing Zhang, who carried out the experimental work, adds that these activated hydrogen atoms can be transferred to alkenes and arenes under mild conditions, allowing hydrogenation reactions to occur.

Hydrogenation reactions are vital to pharmaceutical research, the agrochemical industry and materials science. A new photocatalytic process offers a more efficient and environmentally friendly approach to hydrogenation, which could revolutionize these industries.

Professor Armido Studer emphasizes the significance of this discovery: “Our system provides an ideal platform for the study of unexplored chemical processes that use the hydrogen atom as a reactant in synthesis.” Dr. Christian Mück-Lichtenfeld emphasizes the versatility of this process, explaining: “The hydrogen atoms of activated water can be transferred to alkenes and arenes under very mild conditions.” Dr. Jingjing Zhang adds.


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