New findings from a team of researchers in America has suggested that metal oxide redox chemistry could be due a big re-think, after the role of protons in the redox reactions were reconsidered.
Most redox reactions are thought to be solely electrons, however, new findings have shown that when the reactions occur on titanium dioxide crystals, they can also involve the movement of protons. This finding could have significant implications for surface redox reactions where proton chemistry plays a part – using solar energy to split water or generate energy, for example.
The discovery was made by James Mayer and colleagues at the University of Washington, Seattle, but he conceded that the news will not be earth-shattering for many electrochemists. He said: “People suspected that protons were involved, but had little sense of the underlying chemistry.”
He added: “I am suggesting that electron transfer can be accompanied by a proton and that when you are doing chemistry at a surface that you know involves protons, such as water-splitting, then you need to take this into account. This may influence the way that people construct their ideas and go about the chemistry.”