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Single-atom catalysis: how a C60 molecule can help a V+ ion to split water

Date of news: 15 November 2021

Water splitting is an important source of hydrogen, a promising future carrier for clean and renewable energy.  To improve the design of efficient catalysts a detailed understanding of the water splitting reaction mechanisms, catalyzed by supported metal atoms or nanoparticles, is essential.

Researchers from HFML-FELIX and KU Leuven used the FELICE free-electron laser to show how water is split, assisted by a C60-supported vanadium atom as a result from resonant infrared absorption.

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Accompanying theoretical calculations exploring the detailed reaction pathway reveal that the C60 support has an important role in lowering the reaction barrier due to a large orbital overlap of one water hydrogen atom with one of C60’s carbon atoms. This fundamental insight in the water splitting reaction showcases the importance of supports in single atom catalysis, and how they modify the reaction potential energy surface.


Water Splitting by C60‐Supported Vanadium Single Atoms, Gao-Lei Hou, Tao Yang, Mengyang Li, Jan Vanbuel, Olga V. Lushchikova, Piero Ferrari, Joost M. Bakker, Ewald Janssens, Angewandte Chemie International Edition 60 (2021)

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Joost Bakker