On the photocatalytic cycle of water splitting with small manganese oxides and the roles of water clusters as direct sources of oxygen molecules†
We theoretically studied the chemical principles behind the photodynamics of water splitting: 2H2O + 4hν + M → 4H+ + 4e− + O2 + M. To comprehend this simple looking but very complicated reaction, the mechanisms of at least three crucial phenomena, among others, need to be clarified, each of which is supposed to constitute the foundation of chemistry: (i) charge separation (4H+ + 4e−), (ii) the catalytic cycle for essentially the same reactions to be repeated by each of four photon absorptions with a catalyst M, and (iii) the generation of oxygen molecules of spin triplet. We have previously clarified the photodynamical mechanism of charge separation, which we refer to as coupled proton electron-wavepacket transfer (CPEWT), based on the theory of nonadiabatic electron wavepacket dynamics [K. Yamamoto and K. Takatsuka, ChemPhysChem, 2017, 18, 537]. CPEWT gives an idea of how charge separation can be materialized at each single photon absorption. Yet, this mechanism alone cannot address the above crucial items such as (ii) the catalytic cycle and (iii) O2 formation. In the studies of these fundamental processes, we constructed a possible minimal chemical system and perform semi-quantitative quantum chemical analyses, with which to attain insights about the possible mechanisms of photochemical water splitting. The present study has been inspired by the idea underlying the so-called Kok cycle, although we do not aim to simulate photosystem II in biological systems in nature. For instance, we assume here that a catalyst M (actually simple manganese oxides in this particular study) is pumped up to its excited states leading to charge separation by four-time photon absorption, each excitation of which triggers individual series of chemical reactions including the reorganization of the hydrogen-bonding network (cluster) of water molecules surrounding the photocatalytic center. It is shown that in the successive processes of restructuring of the relevant water cluster, the OO bond is formed and consequently an oxygen molecule of spin triplet can be isolated within a range of a given photon energy of about 3.0 eV.