We explored the reactivity of the active center of the [FeFe]-hydrogenases detached from the enzyme and immersed in acidified water by first-principles Car-Parrinello molecular-dynamics simulations. We focused on the identification of the structures that are stable and metastable in acidified water and on their activity for hydrogen production. Our calculations revealed that the naked active center could be an efficient catalyst provided that electrons are transferred to the cluster. We found that both bridging and terminal isomers are present at equilibrium and that the bridging configuration is essential for efficient hydrogen production. The formation of the hydrogen molecule occurs via sequential protonations of the distal iron and of the N-atom of the S-CH 2-NH-CH2-S chelating group. H2 desorption does not involve a significant energy barrier, making the process very efficient at room temperature. We established that the bottleneck in the reaction is the direct proton transfer from water to the vacant site of the distal iron. Moreover, we found that even if the terminal isomer is present at the equilibrium, its strong local hydrophobicity prevents poisoning of the cluster.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films
- Materials Chemistry