The objective of this division is to contribute to the creation of innovative carbon-neutral technologies by developing novel catalysts, underlining aspects of both basic science and engineering. These activities are focused on investigating “Solar Energy and Energy Conservation,” which are both catalysis-related and which have the potential to significantly increase energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions in energy, power or industrial production processes. Projects in the division address the development of: novel biomimetic catalysts for H2, CO2, and H2O activation based on naturally occurring enzymes; new and green material transformation systems which require less energy and use ubiquitous and abundant air as an oxidant; and catalysis for fuel oxidation and regeneration, and production of novel materials for carbon neutral power generation cycles.
● RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS
As shown in the Division's roadmap, the main emphasis at this stage is the development of new synthetic hydrogenases (H2ases). This fundamental but directed research is essential for our mid-term goals. Guided by biological designs, the S. Ogo group has described a potentially revolutionary approach to a functional [NiFe]hydrogenase mimic (Science 2013, 339: 682-684). Previous work by the Ogo group had led to a nickel catalyst that activated H2, but it contained precious metals. Previous work by the Rauchfuss group had led to Ni-Fe catalysts but they lacked the ability to activate H2. Ogo's breakthrough resolves both of the previous deficiencies, and the preliminary results suggest that the new catalysts exhibit properties useful for catalysis. For example, the catalysts transfer hydride to acceptor molecules, reminiscent of certain reactions in fuel cells. In parallel, the Rauchfuss group has completed related studies on a separately designed biomimetic catalyst, but with a focus on novel cofactors (Organometallics 2013, 32, 323). While the fundamental work by the Ogo and Rauchfuss groups is intrinsically interesting, it is of specific and practical value with respect to the evolution of new catalysts as described in our roadmap. Overall the combined, complementary efforts will help accelerate hydrogen fuel cell technology using a non-precious metal catalyst.
T. Katsuki and his group members have made good progress in developing routes for the synthesis of organic compounds with no or minimal waste. The range of opportunities for high impact are numerous. The breakthrough of the year entailed C-H amination under mild conditions (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2013, 52(6), 1739-1742). This kind of transformation formerly required multiple steps and results in a substantial waste stream, the new shortcut is both more efficient and more selective. Clearly many opportunities exist in this theme (see roadmap), and current goals remain correspondingly broad within this context, including asymmetric epoxidation using air at room temperature, oxygen-driven dearomatization of hydroxy aromatic compounds, clarification of the mechanism for iron-catalyzed oxidation, asymmetric aziridination.
M. Yamauchi and her group succeeded in power generation by a direct ethylene glycol solid alkaline fuel cell using non-Pt catalysts, production of selective propylene synthesis catalysts and a high magnetization magnet (Nanoscale. 2013, 5(4), 1489-1493). In addition to the specific research accomplishment, I2CNER is proud to have helped launch the independent research career of this dedicated and talented young woman.
● FUTURE DIRECTIONS
In the area of energy conservation, research by the group of Prof. T. Katsuki has established the opportunities for I2CNER-relevant catalysis that is unusually carbon-neutral. Because of the numerous opportunities, continued, careful consideration will focus on evaluating those transformation with the greatest impact, greatest relevance to the I2CNER targets, shown in the roadmap, and best leverage our collaborative atmosphere.
PIs S. Ogo and T. Rauchfuss are involved in area of New Energy. Guided by the roadmap, they will evolve and optimize synthetic hydrogenases at an accelerated pace. In view of breakthroughs in the Ogo group, the pace of this work is completely on course. Between the efforts of these two research groups, I2CNER is in the position to lead the world in the elucidation of mechanism for biomimetic hydrogen activation. The coming year or two will witness integration of their new catalysts into fuel cell prototypes, as is being led by S. Ogo.
The group of M. Yamauchi has explored the nano alloy catalysis for carbon-neural cycle, linking the efforts of Energy Conservation and New Energy. Future work will be aimed optimizing these catalysts and integration with the efforts focused on fuel cells and hydrogen production.