In situ formation of an oxygen-evolving catalyst in neutral water containing phosphate and Co2+

Science. 2008 Aug 22;321(5892):1072-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1162018. Epub 2008 Jul 31.


The utilization of solar energy on a large scale requires its storage. In natural photosynthesis, energy from sunlight is used to rearrange the bonds of water to oxygen and hydrogen equivalents. The realization of artificial systems that perform "water splitting" requires catalysts that produce oxygen from water without the need for excessive driving potentials. Here we report such a catalyst that forms upon the oxidative polarization of an inert indium tin oxide electrode in phosphate-buffered water containing cobalt (II) ions. A variety of analytical techniques indicates the presence of phosphate in an approximate 1:2 ratio with cobalt in this material. The pH dependence of the catalytic activity also implicates the hydrogen phosphate ion as the proton acceptor in the oxygen-producing reaction. This catalyst not only forms in situ from earth-abundant materials but also operates in neutral water under ambient conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Catalysis*
  • Cobalt / chemistry*
  • Electrochemistry
  • Electrodes
  • Electrolysis
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxygen / chemistry*
  • Phosphates / chemistry*
  • Photosynthesis
  • Potassium Compounds / chemistry
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Phosphates
  • Potassium Compounds
  • Water
  • Cobalt
  • cobaltous nitrate
  • potassium phosphate
  • Oxygen