Bimetallic Catalysis

Bimetallic Catalysts for Renewable Fuel Production

The ability to store renewable energy in chemical fuels is crucial for the development of a sustainable global energy cycle. Hydrogen gas, produced by the electrolysis of water, is a clean renewable fuel, but has a low energy density compared to conventional fuels. We are developing catalysts for the conversion of hydrogen gas to carbon-based liquid fuels with high energy density.

Diagram of a sustainable energy cycle. Water is converted to hydrogen gas through sustainable electrolysis. A catalyst combines hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide to form carbon-based fuels including methane, formic acid, methanol, and ethanol. Burning the fuels releases energy and produced carbon dioxide and water, completing the cycle.

Our approach involves bimetallic catalysts featuring a chemical bond between two different metal atoms. The metals are poised to break the symmetry of the hydrogen molecule, lowering the energy barrier for hydrogen activation. We anticipate the addition of hydrogen to the metal-metal bond will produce a dihydride capable of reducing substrates such as carbon dioxide.

The synthesis of bimetallic compounds is challenging. To prepare compounds containing two different metals, we use bifunctional ligands—molecules that bind to metal ions through two different types of functional groups. Our ligands feature a cyclopentadienide (Cp) group and an N-heterocyclic carbene (NHC) group tethered together with a carbon chain of variable length.

chemical structure of a bifunctional ligand consisting of a cyclopentadienide group and an N-heterocyclic carbene functional group, linked by hydrocarbon tether.

Interested in this project?

If you’re a SUNY Geneseo student interested in participating in this research project, please contact Dr. Tate. This project is great for chemistry majors, especially those who are interested in organic synthesis, organometallic chemistry, catalysis, and sustainable energy. Preference may be given to students pursuing degrees in chemistry and biochemistry, but all students are welcome to inquire about research opportunities.