Natural photosynthesis mechanism inspires the design of efficients new catalysts, that enable to conduct important chemical reactions under mild conditions
There is a urgent need for sustainable development, and chemists are striving to meet these demands. Especially, inspired by the efficiency of natural catalysts, enzymes, , from the Seoul National University, in Korea, aims to understand and replicate Mother Nature’s chemical reactions for human benefit. These enzymes are known to accelerate reactions significantly, reducing activation barriers: reactions occurs with much less energy than what we currently can do with synthetic catalysts.
Metalloenzymes, enzymes containing metal ions like zinc, manganese, or iron, play a crucial role in vital reactions such as photosynthesis, methane oxidation, and nitrogen fixation, occurring under ambient conditions. Conversely, synthetic catalysts for similar reactions demand large amounts of energy. Nitrogen fixation, for instance, consumes about two percent of the world’s total energy. proposes that understanding and mimicking nature’s approach to these chemical reactions can lead to more sustainable and energy-efficient processes.
Enzymes with metallic atoms
The focus of the research that is presented here is on designing artificial metalloenzymes. team has created various enzymes, each with specific catalytic properties. However, their recent published work centers on photocatalytic enzymes inspired by nature’s ability to harvest solar energy during photosynthesis.
The artificial metalloenzyme designed by the researchers contains two catalysts introduced into a protein matrix, imitating nature’s way of efficient electron transfer in chemical processes. Blue LED light activates an iridium-based catalyst, triggering electron transfer into a nickel catalyst, which then conducts a cross-coupling reaction to form a new carbon-oxygen bond under ambient conditions. The researchers observed that the enzyme’s selectivity and reactivity are significantly higher when both iridium and nickel catalysts are present, suggesting the importance of efficient single electron transfer between them.
Optimization reveals versatility
The scientists conducted experiments to optimize the biocatalytic processes by changing the protein sequence and the local environment of the inorganic catalysts. The artificial metalloenzyme demonstrated versatility in reacting with a wide range of aromatic substrates, making it a promising candidate for various chemical transformations.
Overall, the research showcased the successful design of artificial metalloenzymes, inspired by nature’s energy-efficient processes. The study’s results provide valuable insights into how such catalysts can facilitate sustainable development by reducing energy consumption and promoting green chemical transformations. The researchers aim to continue exploring and expanding the scope of chemical reactivity in hopes of making significant contributions to sustainable development as chemists.