Development of efficient and renewable electrocatalytic systems is foundational to creation of effective means to produce solar fuels. Many redox enzymes are functional electrocatalysts when immobilized on an electrode, but long-term stability of isolated proteins limits use in applications. Thus there is interest in developing bio-inspired functional catalysts or electrocatalytic systems based on living organisms. This dissertation describes efforts to create both synthetic and biological electrochemical systems for electrocatalytic hydrogen production.
The first part of this dissertation describes the preparation of three different types of proton reduction catalysts. First, four bioinspired diiron complexes of the form (μ-SRS)Fe(CO)3[Fe(CO)(N-N)] for SRS = 1,2-benzenedithiolate (bdt) and 1,3-propanedithiolate (pdt) and N-N = 2,2’-bipyridine (bpy) and 2,2’-bypyrimidine (bpym), are described. Electrocatatlytic experiments show that although the byprimidinal complexes are not catalysts, the bipyridyl complexes produce hydrogen from acetic acid under reducing conditions. Second, three new mononuclear FeII carbonyl complexes of the form [Fe(CO)(bdt)(PPh2)2] in which P2 = bis-phosphine: 4,5-Bis(diphenylphosphino)- 9,9-dimethylxanthene (Xantphos), 1,2-Bis(diphenylphosphino)benzene (dppb), or cis- 1,2-Bis(diphenylphosphino)ethylene (dppv) are described. All are functional bio-inspired models of the distal Fe site of [FeFe]-hydrogenases. Of these, the Xanthphos complex is the most stable to redox reactions and active as an electrocatalyst. Third, a molybdenum catalyst based on the redox non-innocent PDI ligand framework is also shown to produce hydrogen in the presence of acid.
The second part of this dissertation describes creating functional interfaces between chemical and biological models at electrode surfaces to create electroactive systems. First, covalent tethering of the redox probe ferrocene to thiol-functionalized reduced graphene oxide is demonstrated. I demonstrate that this attachment is via the thiol functional groups. Second, I demonstrate the ability to use electricity in combination with light to drive production of hydrogen by the anaerobic, phototrophic microorganism Heliobacterium modesticaldum.