Bioelectrocatalysis in porous electrodes: The local environment may be more basic (and complex) than it appears
As a society we are highly reliant on fossil fuels, and while in recent years great advances have been made in renewable ways to generate electricity our ability to store this energy is lagging behind. One way to store this energy is in the form of chemical fuels that can be easily interfaced with our current energy storage and distribution networks. A great amount of attention has been paid to the development of better performing catalysts for the production of fuels from waste products such as CO2, however even the best systems are still being comfortably outperformed by nature that has had millenia to develop enzymes with exceptional selectivities and activities for fuel forming reactions. The study of these enzymes can provide inspiration for the next generation of synthetic fuel forming catalysts, but they also act as an excellent model system for understanding how these ideal catalysts of the future might perform in a system. By performing a catalytic reaction the local environment surrounding a catalyst is inherently different to that of the bulk solution, to understand how this affects the performance of the system as a whole, a CO2 reducing enzyme (Formate Dehydrogenase) was immobilised within a porous electrode surface and the local environment surrounding the enzyme resolved by combining electrochemical experiments with computational (finite element) modelling. In this talk I will discuss the effect of the local environment on the performance of enzymatic catalysts, and how this environment can be optimised by solution design and enzymatic control to give the best overall performance of the system as a whole. A factor that is commonly overlooked when designing electrocatalytic systems.