Reports: UNI350235-UNI3: Exploration of Molecular Designs for Energy Conversion

Charles Mebi, PhD, Arkansas Tech University

The ACS-PRF grant provided support for the synthesis and characterization of organometallic models for the active site of the hydrogen producing enzyme, [Fe-Fe] hydrogenase. Five students worked on this project during summer and spring semesters of 2012. At the end of the summer project, the students took a survey on their research experience ("SURE" by D. Lopatto) and reported very large gains in the following areas; understanding of the research process, learning laboratory techniques, learning to work independently, understanding how knowledge is constructed, and being part of the learning community. One of the students supported by this grant, graduated and easily gained admission into graduate school due in part to the research experience.

In this project, the students synthesized several novel diironhexacarbonyl complexes containing electroactive thiolate groups. The synthesis and isolation of these compounds involved the use of Schlenk line techniques and provided a good opportunity for the students to learn air-sensitive chemistry. After preparation and isolation, the compounds were characterized using spectroscopic and electrochemical methods. Infrared spectroscopy was used extensively for the identification of the complexes. IR peaks corresponding to the stretching frequencies of terminal metal carbonyls were recorded for all of the compounds between 2000 and 2100 cm-1. The potential of these compounds as hydrogenase mimics were explored using cyclic voltammetry. The results show that our complexes effectively catalyze the electrochemical generation of hydrogen at favorable overpotentials. Partial results from this study are contained in two recent publications by our group.

The principal investigator and students are deeply grateful for the ACS-PRF support that has been crucial for starting a productive undergraduate chemistry research program at Arkansas Tech University.