Organic single-molecule supported electrocatalysts help catalyze electrolysis of saline

On May 17, 2023, the team of Wang Dingsheng and Li Yadong of Tsinghua University published the latest results in the journal Nature with the title “CO2-mediated organocatalytic chlorine evolution under industrial conditions”, reporting the research on electrolytic saline catalysts. Organic single-molecule supported electrocatalysts”.

In recent years, with the support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Key R&D Program of the Ministry of Science and Technology, the research groups of Wang Dingsheng and Li Yadong of Tsinghua University have made a series of important progress in nano, clustering and single-atom catalysis, and have developed regulatory synthesis at the atomic and molecular scales (Nature Chem. 2020, 12, 764; Nature Catal. 2022, 5, 300), found in electrocatalysis (Nature Nanotech. 2020, 15, 390), Homogeneous catalysis (Nature Catal. 2021, 4, 523), Enzymatic Catalysis (Nature Catal. 2021, 4, 407), etc. show attractive prospects. Relevant studies have shown that the catalytic center of metal monoatomic site is inseparable from the composition and structure of surrounding coordination atoms and support at the atomic scale, so it is extremely challenging to further explore “single-molecule supported catalyst” at the molecular scale, and the traditional metal complex homogeneous catalytic reaction and organic small molecule catalytic reaction can be understood as “liquid single-molecule catalytic reaction”.

Inspired by the above work, the team tried to adsorb small organic molecules on the electrode, and found a simple and effective small organic molecule catalyst (which can be called “single-molecule support catalyst”), which shows excellent catalytic performance for the anodic chlorine precipitation reaction in chlor-alkali chemical industry under the activation of carbon dioxide, which can achieve the activity and selectivity comparable to industrial electrodes, and demonstrate relatively reliable stability and continuous output under industrial conditions. It is expected to inject new vitality into the development of chlor-alkali industry.

Figure 1: Discovery of a new catalyst for electrolysis of saline

Based on this small molecule-supported electrocatalyst, the team studied its mechanism and the source of catalytic activity during the reaction. Different from the mechanism of covalent bond formation in traditional precious metal electrodes, small organic molecules are indirectly oxidized to chlorine radicals by initiating the formation of nitrogen radicals, and then carrying out a single-electron transfer process, and the two chlorine radicals formed are annihilated to form chlorine release. The results of this study are expected to provide new ideas for energy conservation and consumption reduction in chlor-alkali industry, and the team keenly found that this strategy can be extended to a number of traditional metal-organic “single-molecule electrocatalytic reactions”, which is expected to create a new direction of “single-molecule electrocatalytic reactions” with industrial application prospects. (Source: Science Network)

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