Nature’s chemical energy circuits: taking inspiration from hydrogen in biology

This talk examines lessons that can be learnt from nature in the development of catalytic processes for some of the key challenges in energy chemistry. Microorganisms have developed specialised metal-containing enzymes for oxidation of hydrogen, production of hydrogen as a fuel, fixing carbon dioxide into useful chemical building blocks, and converting nitrogen into ammonia under ambient conditions. Nature’s catalysts are highly selective and efficient, and are based on metals that are cheap, and abundant in the environment, such as nickel and iron. Inspiration arising from understanding how nature has tuned these metals for efficient catalysis promises unique solutions to some of the most significant and urgent challenges in energy chemistry. We apply a suite of lab-based and synchrotron-based techniques to probe the mechanisms of biocatalytic processes, as well as exploiting enzymes in cleaner, hydrogen-driven chemical synthesis.