Improving Photocatalytic Hydrogen Production of Ru,Rh,Ru Supramolecular Complexes in Aerobic Aqueous Solutions

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Virginia Tech


The production of hydrogen fuel via solar water splitting is an important carbon-neutral strategy for the development of renewable resources and has sparked great interest in the scientific community. Hydrogen production efficiencies for supramolecular photocatalysts of the architecture [{(TL)2Ru(BL)}2RhX2]5+ (BL=bridging ligand, TL=terminal ligand, X=halide) are among the highest reported in deoxygenated organic solvents, but do not function in air-saturated aqueous solution due to quenching of the metal-to-ligand charge transfer (MLCT) excited-state under these conditions. Herein, we report the groundbreaking use of polyelectrolytes to increase efficiency of supramolecular photocatalysts in solar hydrogen production schemes under aqueous aerobic conditions. The new photocatalytic system incorporates poly(4-styrenesulfonate) (PSS) into aqueous solutions containing [{(bpy)2Ru(dpp)}2RhCl2]5+ (bpy = 2,2'-bipyridine, dpp = 2,3-bis(2-pyridyl)pyrazine). PSS has a profound impact on photocatalyst efficiency, increasing hydrogen production over three times that of deoxygenated aqueous solutions alone. Hydrogen photocatalysis proceeds even under aerobic conditions for PSS containing solutions, an exciting consequence for solar hydrogen production research.

Thermodynamics of binding due to intermolecular interactions between Ru,Rh,Ru photocatalysts and polyelectrolytes was probed using isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC). ITC studies reveal the driving forces of aggregate formation, providing new insight into the intermolecular forces that lead to increased photocatalytic efficiency and stability in the presence of water soluble polymers.

Synthesis and characterization of a novel supramolecular photocatalyst having hydrophilic terminal ligands are reported. Addition of sulfonated terminal ligands into a Ru,Rh,Ru photocatalyst has a significant impact on the excited-state properties of the complex. The new complex demonstrates increased solubility and hydrogen production efficiency in aqueous solutions. Hydrogen production is observed even under aerobic conditions for the new complex, a stark contrast to the hydrophobic analog in organic solvents.

The synthesis, characterization, and electropolymerization of a chromophore-catalyst assembly having vinyl-substituted terminal ligands to create robust water reduction photocatalysts on wide-bandgap semiconductors is reported. The polymeric photocatalysts are expected to show increased stability over a wide pH range and increased photostability compared to chromophore-catalyst assemblies that employ carboxylic or phosphonic acid groups to adsorb the photoreactive catalyst to the metal oxide surface.



supramolecular complexes, ruthenium, rhodium, polyazine, photocatalyst, polyelectrolyte, hydrogen production, solar energy, photochemistry