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Steps toward biohydrogen: a new way to obtain the hydrogenase cofactor azadithiolate at high yield and without complicated reagents

Hydrogenases, the enzymes employed by organisms to yield hydrogen under anaerobic conditions, are being studied intensively as systems to produce hydrogen inexpensively, simply and cleanly without using expensive metal catalysts.

A popular research strategy is to build enzyme models that can then be modified to bring them closer to the ultimate goal of functioning even in the presence of some oxygen and not being poisoned, by the hydrogen gas produced.

Azadithiolate (S--CH2-NH-CH2-S-) is one of the seven cofactors that make up an important part of such a hydrogenase catalyst. Thomas Rauchfuss and his team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed a new approach to obtain this cofactor, which is described in the Short Communication published in the European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry.

This new approach employs organotitanium compounds, which are known to enable the synthesis of unusual ligands containing sulfur. A dithiolatotitanocene complex was first synthesized, demonstrating that titanocene stabilizes azadithiolate ligands. The next step was to transfer the azadithiolate ligand from the titanocene to a dinuclear iron center, which was successfully carried out with efficiency and good yield.

The importance of this new route to obtain diiron azadithiolato complexes is that it proceeds with high yield and does not require complicated reagents. In addition to describing the first synthesis and structural characterization of an azadithiolato complex not based on the diiron core, the scientists have succeeded in transferring the azadithiolate ligand to the diiron center, which enables further studies of this important cofactor.


  • Raja Angamuthu, Maria E. Carroll, Maya Ramesh, Thomas B. Rauchfuss (2011) A New Route to Azadithiolato Complexes European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry, doi: 10.1002/ejic.201001208



Could somebody translate?


If you want to turn biomass into H2, just steam-reform it. This is an old and cheap technology and the CO2 can easily be sequestered or reused.
If you want 'solar hydrogen', I can't immagine of any organism ever getting the efficiency of photovoltaics or thermal-electrics. Even algae have a maximal efficiency of only a few %.
One nuclear powerplant with high-temperature electrolysis can produce more H2 than a small country covered with energy crops. Simply do the math.

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