Flavinium ion is first nonmetal catalyst to generate O2 during electrolysis
In the quest to find better catalysts for splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen, chemists have discovered that a small organic molecule related to the vitamin riboflavin can substitute for transition-metal catalysts traditionally used in electrolysis. The research, reported at the American Chemical Society national meeting in Philadelphia on Aug. 20, could lead to a simple, low-cost way to generate H2 to power fuel cells.
To facilitate the splitting of water, chemists usually use costly precious-metal catalysts deposited on electrodes. In one half of the electrochemical system, water is oxidized to liberate O2. In the other half, the protons generated can readily combine to give H2. The electricity needed to drive the overall reaction would ideally come from a solar cell.