Key steps in electro-catalytic water oxidation on binuclear Transition Metal (TM) sites are addressed. These comprise (a) two one-electron oxidation steps of TM–OH moieties to form the corresponding two TMO oxy-groups, and (b) a chemical step whereby the two oxy-species form a TM–O–O–TM peroxy-bridge. A test rig representing a generic low crystal field oxide support is described and employed. The energetics for homo-nuclear Cr(III–V), Mn(III–V), Fe(II–IV) and Co(II–IV) sites are compared. The uniqueness of the tyrosine/tyrosyl-radical (TyrOH/TyrO˙) reference potential for driving the oxidation steps is demonstrated. The oxidation of adsorbed TM–OH moieties on binuclear Mn and Co candidates requires an overpotential of approximately 0.5 V relative to the chosen reference potential. Correspondingly, the subsequent O–O bond formation becomes strongly exothermic, of the order of 1 eV. The hydroxide oxidation steps on binuclear CrCr and FeFe systems are, in total, exothermic by 1.21 and 0.61 eV, respectively, relative to the TyrOH/TyrO˙ reference potential. Consequently, the chemical step for transforming the TMO moieties to the peroxo species is found to be endothermic by the order of 0.7 eV. Based on these findings, a catalyst containing one TM from each class is suggested. The validity of this concept is demonstrated for the FeCo binuclear site. The results are discussed in the context of experimental observations, which display a preference for mixed oxide systems.
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