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Title: Development of enzymatic H2 production and CO2 reduction systems
Author: Woolerton, Thomas William
ISNI:       0000 0004 2744 6854
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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One of today’s most pressing scientific challenges is the conception, development and deployment of renewable energy technologies that will meet the demands of a rapidly increasing population. The motivation is not only dwindling fossil fuel reserves, but also the necessary curtailment of emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (a product of burning fossil fuels). The sun provides a vast amount of energy (120,000 TW globally), and one major challenge is the conversion of a fraction of this energy into chemical energy, thereby allowing it to be stored. Dihydrogen (H₂) that is produced from water is an attractive candidate to store solar energy (a ‘solar fuel’), as are high energy carbon-containing molecules (such as CO) that are formed directly from carbon dioxide. One key aspect is the development of catalysts that are able to offer high rates and efficiencies. In biology, some microbes acquire energy from the metabolism of H₂ and CO. The biological catalysts - enzymes - that are responsible are hydrogenases (for the oxidation of H₂ to protons); and carbon monoxide dehydrogenases (CODHs, for the oxidation of CO to CO₂). These redox enzymes, containing nickel and iron as the only metals, are extraordinary in terms of their catalytic characteristics: many are fully reversible catalysts and offer very high turnover frequencies (thousands per second are common), with only tiny energy input requirements. This Thesis uses a hydrogenase from the bacterium Escherichia coli, and two CODHs from the bacterium Carboxydothermus hydrogenoformans, as the catalysts in H2 production and CO₂ reduction systems. Chapter 3 describes the concept and development not of a solar fuel system, but of a device that catalyses the water-gas shift reaction (the reaction between CO and water to form H₂ and CO₂) - a process of major industrial importance for the production of high purity H₂. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 detail photochemical CO₂ reduction systems that are driven by visible light. These systems, operating under mild, aqueous conditions, involve CODHs attached either to TiO₂ nanoparticles that are sensitised to visible light by the co-attachment of a ruthenium-based dye complex, or to cadmium sulfide nanomaterials that, having a narrow band gap, are inherently photoexcitable by visible light. The motivation here is not the construction of technological devices; indeed, the enzymes that are used are fragile, highly sensitive to oxygen, and impossible to scale to industrial levels. Rather, the drivers are those of scientific curiosity (can the incorporation of these remarkable biological catalysts enable the creation of outstanding solar fuel devices?), and of producing systems that serve as benchmarks and inspiration for the development of fully synthetic systems that are robust and scalable.
Supervisor: Armstrong, Fraser Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Chemistry & allied sciences ; Catalysis ; Chemical biology ; Electrochemistry and electrolysis ; Enzymes ; Inorganic chemistry ; Nanomaterials ; hydrogenase ; carbon monoxide dehydrogenase ; solar fuel