Catalysts prepared from abundant, cost effective metals, such as cobalt, nickel, chromium, manganese, iron, and copper, and containing one or more neutrally charged ligands (e.g., monodentate, bidentate, and/or polydentate ligands) and methods of making and using thereof are described herein. Exemplary ligands include, but are not limited to, phosphine ligands, nitrogen-based ligands, sulfur-based ligands, and/or arsenic-based ligands. In some embodiments, the catalyst is a cobalt-based catalyst or a nickel-based catalyst. The catalysts described herein are stable and active at neutral pH and in a wide range of buffers that are both weak and strong proton acceptors. While its activity is slightly lower than state of the art cobalt-based water oxidation catalysts under some conditions, it is capable of sustaining electrolysis at high applied potentials without a significant degradation in catalytic current. This enhanced robustness gives it an advantage in industrial and large-scale water electrolysis schemes.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
 This invention was made with government support under Agreement Nos. 1122492 and 1119826 awarded by the National Science Foundation, and support under Agreement No. DE-FG02-84ER13297 awarded by the Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights in the invention.