Catalysts based on manganese (black substance) can mimic the splitting of water into oxygen and hydrogen that occurs in plants inside the photosystem II protein cluster responsible for photosynthesis. Credit: Reproduced from Ref. 1 and licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 © 2014 A. Yamaguchi et al.
Plants use photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars and oxygen. The process starts in a cluster of manganese, calcium and oxygen atoms at the heart of a protein complex called photosystem II, which splits water to form oxygen gas, protons and electrons.
Researchers have attempted to develop synthetic catalysts that mimic this cluster, using light or electricity to convert water into fuels such as hydrogen gas. Unlike plants, however, these artificial catalysts can only split alkaline water, which makes the process less sustainable.
Ryuhei Nakamura and colleagues at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science have now developed a manganese oxide-based…
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