Spin matters! Magnetic order and chiral molecules in electrocatalysis

27 November - 1 December 2023

Venue: Lorentz Center@Oort

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The ‘power-to-hydrogen’ strategy aims at splitting water into O2 and H2 via the oxygen and hydrogen evolution reactions. Currently, this is a very energy-inefficient process because of the complex four-step oxygen evolution reaction (OER). An important reason of the low efficiency is that the production of triplet O2 is a spin-forbidden reaction: in fact, the reactants, OH- or H2O, are diamagnetic, but the final product, O2, is a paramagnetic molecule. Therefore, coherent oxygen creation in the ground state directly is impeded by conservation of angular momentum. The oxygen anyhow is typically created in its triplet ground state during OER, but in catalyst without spin order the non-ideal chemisorption of the intermediates and the lack of spin selection slow the kinetics. Only at higher overpotentials, the energy-demanding singlet oxygen (~1 eV higher than the triplet energy) can evolve and thus high activities can be reached. This implies that spin order is essential for a spin enhancement of the reaction pathway.

The fact that O2 is a paramagnetic molecule, but water is diamagnetic has experimentally been largely overlooked in electrocatalysis to date. Based on recent quantum theory, the OER electrocatalysts must exhibit favourable spin alignment (magnetic properties or chiral behavior) to generate triplet oxygen, similar to the way nature fuels life in photosynthesis, where spin-order in oxygen-evolving centres plays a key role. The emerging field of magnetic catalysts follows this revelation and tries to uncover the effects of magnetic order (a long-range effect) and chirality on catalyst activity and selectivity.

The main goal of the workshop is strengthening this field and providing a roadmap for further research. We aim to build an international community in which worldwide researchers can share and exchange ideas, challenges and solutions on how to identify the role of spin and chirality in electrochemistry and to form lasting collaborations and strong connections among different disciplines, ranging from experiments to theory, from electrochemistry to operando characterization and from magnetic materials to chiral molecules, at various levels of expertise. During the workshop a mix of interactive sessions, brainstorming, panel discussions, dedicated talks and poster sessions from individuals of all career stages and social events will be used to provide an atmosphere in which such a new scientific community can be founded and flourish.  

One thematic issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (IJMS, IF 6.208) has been linked to the current workshop.  The topic of the special issue is "Magnetism in Chemistry' (IJMS | Special Issue : Magnetism in Chemistry (mdpi.com)). All participants in the workshop are welcome to submit their manuscripts before, during or after the workshop week. All submitted maniscripts will undergo the standard peer-review process of IJMS and receive a special discount for open access publishing (APC). See the attached flyer for further information and useful contacts.


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