Toward industrial electrocatalysis

The group aims at finding novel pathways to convert basic research on electrochemical small molecule activation into industrial processes following a holistic approach. In close colaboration of chemists and engineers at Ruhr University Bochum and Fraunhofer UMSICHT we close the gap between basic and application-driven research to overcome this valley-of-death and to allow for rapid technology development.

Hydrogenase Mimics

In contrast to current industrial processes, nature uses a powerful enzymatic system to reversibly transform protons into hydrogen. This class of enzymes is called hydrogenase. Based on the catalytic sites of [FeFe]- and [NiFe]-hydrogenases we intend to develop catalytic active mimics. We provide synthetic access to sophisticated active site mimics, investigate their fundamental properties and combine these artificial mimics with the natural enzyme backbone to creat unprecedented semi-artificial enzymatic machineries.

CO Dehydrogenase Mimics

We develop novel bio-inspired bimetallic complexes that activate CO2 and allow its selective reduction (e.g. to CO) in a controlled fashion. This task is based on heterobimetallic low-valent Fe,Ni- and Cu,Mo-complexes with a sulfur-rich ligand environment that is developed in the lab and are inspired by the structure and activity of the enzyme CO-dehydrogenase.

Understanding the Catalytic Role of Metals

Unraveling the mechanistic basis and operational principles of activation of small molecules like dioxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2) or protons (H+) represents a formidable challenge to the chemical sciences. Tetradentate and pentadentate ligands provide the opportunity to tightly control the steric accessibility as well as electronic properties of catalytically active metal ions. By designing tailor made ligand environments for single selected metal ions we uncover structure-activity relationships that pinpoint necessary environmetal features for efficient electrocatalytic catalysts and processes.

Heterogenous Electrocatalysis

Inspired by structural properties of natural enzymes, we design low-cost and robust non-precious, sustainable metal-based catalysts for electrocatalytic processes (e.g. water splitting, CO2 reduction, electrosynthesis of organic compounds). Along this line, the transfer of the novel catalyst materials into functional electrodes (e.g. gas diffusion electrodes, membran electrode assemblies) is a focus of the groups research. Further information can also be obtained under electrosynthesis.

Industrial Electrosynthesis

To foster a technology transfer of our catalysts and electrode development into applications, we likewise provide tailor-made electrolysis cells for industrial valuable processes. For more information see our research at Fraunhofer UMSICHT

NiFe-containing Carbon monoxide dehydrogenase (CODHNi) isolated from M. Thermoacetica [H. Dobbek et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2004, 126, 5382]

CuMo-containing Carbon monoxide dehydrogenase (CODHMo) isolated from O. Carboxidovorans [H. Dobbek et al., PNAS 2002, 99, 15971.]

H-Cluster of the [FeFe] hydrogenase as isolated from D. Desulfuricans [Y. Nicolet et al., Structure 1999, 7, 13–23.]

H-Cluster of the [FeNi] hydrogenase as isolated from Desulfovibrio gigas [Juan C. Fontecilla-Camps et al., Nature 19995, 373, 580-587]