Efficient water oxidation catalysts based on readily available iron coordination complexes

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Water oxidation catalysis constitutes the bottleneck for the development of energy-conversion schemes based on sunlight. To date, state-of-the-art homogeneous water oxidation catalysis is performed efficiently with expensive, toxic and earth-scarce transition metals, but 3d metal-based catalysts are much less established. Here we show that readily available, environmentally benign iron coordination complexes catalyse homogeneous water oxidation to give O2, with high efficiency during a period of hours. Turnover numbers >350 and >1,000 were obtained using cerium ammonium nitrate at pH 1 and sodium periodate at pH 2, respectively. Spectroscopic monitoring of the catalytic reactions, in combination with kinetic studies, show that high valent oxo-iron species are responsible for the O–O forming event. A systematic study of iron complexes that contain a broad family of neutral tetradentate organic ligands identifies first-principle structural features to sustain water oxidation catalysis. Iron-based catalysts described herein open a novel strategy that could eventually enable sustainable artificial photosynthetic schemes ​
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