Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




William R. McNamara

Committee Members

Rachel O'Brien

Douglas D. Young

R. Heather Macdonald


Artificial photosynthesis systems convert solar energy into chemical fuels such as hydrogen gas. Photocatalytic hydrogen generation systems have previously been developed, but reliance on expensive metal catalysts limits the viability of these systems. In order for artificial photosynthesis to be used as a large-scale clean energy solution, it is crucial to discover more active and cost-efficient catalysts.

To this end, several novel iron polypyridyl complexes were synthesized using relatively inexpensive reactants. Electrochemical testing revealed that these complexes are active electrocatalysts for the reduction of protons to generate hydrogen gas. Furthermore, a naphthalene-terminated iron polypyridyl complex was found to be an active electrocatalyst for hydrogen generation while immobilized upon a glassy carbon electrode. The development of a heterogeneous system offers exciting possibilities for the functionalization of carbon nanotubes to construct more efficient artificial photosynthesis devices.

In addition, a combinatorial approach for discovering low-cost iron catalysts was explored using easily synthesized and commercially available ligands. This approach produced several complexes which acted as electrocatalysts for proton reduction, though future studies are required to determine if this is a viable method for finding highly active and cost-efficient catalysts.