Zewail City: Innovative Porous Polymers for Photochemical Catalytic Applications in Energy and Environment

Dr. Al-Kordi and his research team

Dr. Al-Kordi and his research team

The functional materials research group, Center for Materials Science (CMS) at Zewail City of Science and Technology has published their recent study on novel pathway to construct platform solids for applications in photochemical heterogeneous catalysis. The study was published in the American Chemical Society, Applied Materials and Interfaces Journal, on July 18, 2016.

“Our themed research is directed towards developing novel porous synthetic materials of potential applications in energy and environment,” said Dr. Mohamed Alkordi, co-director of the CMS.  In this study, the team was focused on energy-related applications; where two classes of materials were investigated, the ruthenium complexes that are capable of harvesting sunlight, and cobaloximes which are known to act as catalysts in hydrogen production.

“Our long term plan is to construct an energy-efficient system where sunlight can be converted into chemical energy in the form of hydrogen, from the most abundant media on earth, water,” states Alkordi.

In this article, the authors demonstrated a family of microporous polymers incorporating the ruthenium complex or cobaloxime as prototype materials that can be fine-tuned, and further combine the many advantages of heterogeneous catalysts, most importantly the ease of separation from the reaction medium and recyclability.

Regarding the cobaloxime, the article proved that the cobaloxime once anchored within the microporous solid, it showed remarkable stability under the catalytic conditions with comparable or even better activity as compared to the molecular cobaloxime.

As the project included several technical aspects like ultrafast laser spectroscopy to probe the lifetime of several compounds, solid state NMR spectroscopy for structural characterization, and catalytic performance testing, an international research team was assembled and included researchers from College de France, France, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).Saudi Arabia, and University of South Carolina, U.S. This project was funded by the Zewail City startup fund and the Science and Technology Development Fund (STDF) grant ID-6125.

The team has immediate plans to explore this project further into water oxidation catalysts, aiming at closing the circle between the three essential components of a solar-driven water splitting system, learning from the most efficient solar harvesting systems, the green leaf.