A crucial step forward on artificial photosynthesis for energy

RSC highlighted research work of Dimitrios Pantazis and his group

Dr. Dimitrios Pantazis

The research work of Dimitrios Pantazis and his group has just been selected as a research highlight by the Royal Society of Chemistry. The work clarifies one of the fundamental design principles for the construction of water oxidation catalysts and represents a milestone in the international research effort towards artificial photosynthesis.

Read the full paper here.

The conversion of sunlight into chemical energy, considered as the best way to meet humanity’s future global energy demands, involves enormous scientific challenges. One of them is creating a catalyst that splits water into oxygen, protons and electrons, in the same way that plants split water in biological photosynthesis. For this purpose Nature uses a manganese-calcium cluster (Mn4Ca) that stores oxidizing equivalents along a five-step catalytic cycle. Understanding its electronic and geometric structure of this cluster at each step of the cycle would offer invaluable insight into the design principles for a synthetic system, but experiments targeting the question of what are the manganese oxidation states have been interpreted in diverging ways, leading to controversy and uncertainty.

A major breakthrough in this direction has been recently achieved by the group of Dr. Dimitrios Pantazis at the MPI CEC. In their paper on “Metal oxidation states in biological water splitting”, published in Chemical Science, Pantazis and coworkers constructed computational models for each competing suggestion and used advanced quantum chemical methods to predict the properties of these models and compare them with experiment. In this way, they were able to prove that only one of the suggestions, known as the “high oxidation state scheme”, can lead to complete consistency with experimental observations.

Even Scientific American, a popular american science magazine, reproduced and highlighted the paper. more