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Nanostructured Water Oxidation Catalysts

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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Technology Marketing SummaryHeinz Frei and Feng Jiao of Berkeley Lab have developed a visible light driven catalytic system for oxidizing water. Efficient catalytic water oxidation is a critical step for any artificial sunlight-to-fuel conversion system. DescriptionIn the Berkeley Lab technology, nanocluster catalysts of either cobalt oxide or manganese oxide supported on mesoporous silica scaffolds are capable of oxidizing water molecules to oxygen, electrons and protons. By stacking many catalysts in a robust, inert support, the invention achieves a rate of 100 catalytic turnovers/second/square nanometer. Thus, the catalytic system can keep up with solar flux at ground level without wasting incident solar photons. The technology is stable and composed of abundant materials suitable for scalable manufacturing.
A viable artificial photosynthetic system that uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water to a liquid fuel requires catalytic water oxidation efficient enough to keep up with the incident flux of solar protons. The system also must be durable, made of abundant materials and scalable to make it suitable for commercialization. Established water oxidation catalysts are made of Iridium (Ir) oxide or Ruthenium (Ru) oxide— elements in extremely limited supply. State of the art molecular catalysts using more abundant metals are unstable and cannot keep pace with solar flux. The Berkeley Lab nanocluster catalysts overcome these deficiencies and represent a promising component for a solar fuel conversion system.
  • High reaction rate keeps up with photon flux at high solar intensity
  • Stable
  • Uses abundant, inexpensive elements
  • Conducive to scalable manufacturing
Applications and Industries
  • Artificial photosynthetic system

Jiao, Feng and Frei, Heinz. Nanostructured Cobalt Oxide Clusters in Mesoporous Silica as Efficient Oxygen-Evolving Catalysts. Angewandte Chemie International Edition. Vol. 28: 1841-1844. 2009.

Jiao, Feng and Frei, Heinz. Nanostructured Manganese Oxide Clusters Supported on Mesoporous Silica as Efficient Oxygen-evolving Catalysts. Chemical Communications. Vol. 46: 2920-2922. 2010.

Yarris, Lynn. Turning Sunlight into Liquid Fuels: Berkeley Lab Researchers Create a Nano-sized Photocatalyst for Artificial Photosynthesis. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory News Center, March 10, 2009.
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Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
IB-2832Development - Bench Scale TestingAvailable - Available for licensing or collaborative research. Patent pending.06/13/201006/23/2010

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