ConspectusFor more than a decade, photoredox catalysis has been demonstrating that when photoactive catalysts are irradiated with visible light, reactions occur under milder, cheaper, and environmentally friendlier conditions. Furthermore, this methodology allows for the activation of abundant chemicals into valuable products through novel mechanisms that are otherwise inaccessible. The photoredox approach, however, has been primarily used for pharmaceutical applications, where its implementation has been highly effective, but typically with a more rudimentary understanding of the mechanisms involved in these transformations. From a global perspective, the manufacture of everyday chemicals by the chemical industry as a whole currently accounts for 10% of total global energy consumption and generates 7% of the world's greenhouse gases annually. In this context, the Bio-Inspired Light-Escalated Chemistry (BioLEC) Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) was founded to supercharge the photoredox approach for applications in chemical manufacturing aimed at reducing its energy consumption and emissions burden, by using bioinspired schemes to harvest multiple electrons to drive endothermically uphill chemical reactions. The Center comprises a diverse group of researchers with expertise that includes synthetic chemistry, biophysics, physical chemistry, and engineering. The team works together to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanistic details of photoredox reactions while amplifying the applications of these light-driven methodologies.In this Account, we review some of the major advances in understanding, approach, and applicability made possible by this collaborative Center. Combining sophisticated spectroscopic tools and photophysics tactics with enhanced photoredox reactions has led to the development of novel techniques and reactivities that greatly expand the field and its capabilities. The Account is intended to highlight how the interplay between disciplines can have a major impact and facilitate the advance of the field. For example, techniques such as time-resolved dielectric loss (TRDL) and pulse radiolysis are providing mechanistic insights not previously available. Hypothesis-driven photocatalyst design thus led to broadening of the scope of several existing transformations. Moreover, bioconjugation approaches and the implementation of triplet-triplet annihilation mechanisms created new avenues for the exploration of reactivities. Lastly, our multidisciplinary approach to tackling real-world problems has inspired the development of efficient methods for the depolymerization of lignin and artificial polymers.
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