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Science. 2009 Dec 4;326(5958):1384-7. doi: 10.1126/science.1179773.

From hydrogenases to noble metal-free catalytic nanomaterials for H2 production and uptake.

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Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA), Institut Rayonnement Matière de Saclay, Service de Physique et Chimie des Surfaces et Interfaces, Chemistry of Surfaces and Interfaces group, F-91191 Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France.


Interconversion of water and hydrogen in unitized regenerative fuel cells is a promising energy storage framework for smoothing out the temporal fluctuations of solar and wind power. However, replacement of presently available platinum catalysts by lower-cost and more abundant materials is a requisite for this technology to become economically viable. Here, we show that the covalent attachment of a nickel bisdiphosphine-based mimic of the active site of hydrogenase enzymes onto multiwalled carbon nanotubes results in a high-surface area cathode material with high catalytic activity under the strongly acidic conditions required in proton exchange membrane technology. Hydrogen evolves from aqueous sulfuric acid solution with very low overvoltages (20 millivolts), and the catalyst exhibits exceptional stability (more than 100,000 turnovers). The same catalyst is also very efficient for hydrogen oxidation in this environment, exhibiting current densities similar to those observed for hydrogenase-based materials.

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