Photosynthetic Water Oxidation: Insights from Manganese Model Chemistry

Karin J. Young, Bradley J. Brennan, Ranitendranath Tagore, Gary W. Brudvig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Citations (Scopus)


Catalysts for light-driven water oxidation are a critical component for development of solar fuels technology. The multielectron redox chemistry required for this process has been successfully deployed on a global scale in natural photosynthesis by green plants and cyanobacteria using photosystem II (PSII). PSII employs a conserved, cuboidal Mn4CaOX cluster called the O2-evolving complex (OEC) that offers inspiration for artificial O2-evolution catalysts.In this Account, we describe our work on manganese model chemistry relevant to PSII, particularly the functional model [MnIII/IV2(terpy)2(μ-O)2(OH2)2](NO3)3 complex (terpy = 2,2′;6′,2″-terpyridine), a mixed-valent di-μ-oxo Mn dimer with two terminal aqua ligands. In the presence of oxo-donor oxidants such as HSO5-, this complex evolves O2 by two pathways, one of which incorporates solvent water in an O-O bond-forming reaction. Deactivation pathways of this catalyst include comproportionation to form an inactive MnIVMnIV dimer and also degradation to MnO2, a consequence of ligand loss when the oxidation state of the complex is reduced to labile MnII upon release of O2. The catalyst's versatility has been shown by its continued catalytic activity after direct binding to the semiconductor titanium dioxide. In addition, after binding to the surface of TiO2 via a chromophoric linker, the catalyst can be oxidized by a photoinduced electron-transfer mechanism, mimicking the natural PSII process. Model oxomanganese complexes have also aided in interpreting biophysical and computational studies on PSII. In particular, the μ-oxo exchange rates of the Mn-terpy dimer have been instrumental in establishing that the time scale for μ-oxo exchange of high-valent oxomanganese complexes with terminal water ligands is slower than O2 evolution in the natural photosynthetic system. Furthermore, computational studies on the Mn-terpy dimer and the OEC point to similar MnIV-oxyl intermediates in the O-O bond-forming mechanism.Comparison between the OEC and the Mn-terpy dimer indicates that challenges remain in the development of synthetic Mn water-oxidation catalysts. These include redox leveling to couple multielectron reactions with one-electron steps, avoiding labile MnII species during the catalytic cycle, and protecting the catalyst active site from undesired side reactions.As the first example of a functional manganese O2-evolution catalyst, the Mn-terpy dimer exemplifies the interrelatedness of biomimetic chemistry with biophysical studies. The design of functional model complexes enriches the study of the natural photosynthetic system, while biology continues to provide inspiration for artificial photosynthetic technologies to meet global energy demand. (Chemical Equation Presented).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-574
Number of pages8
JournalAccounts of chemical research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 17 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Photosynthetic Water Oxidation: Insights from Manganese Model Chemistry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this