Karsten Meyer and colleagues report the first example of electrocatalytic reduction of H2O to H2 using a molecular uranium (iii) coordination complex. The catalytic nature of this reaction is unusual, since the bonding strength of the uranyl (O=U(IV=O) motif means that most uranium complexes react irreversibly with water to form uranyl-based species, rather than participating in reversible oxidation/reduction reactions inherent to the recovery of catalysts. The catalytic cycle is shown to involve a rare terminal U(IV)-OH complex. The possibility of developing uranium-based catalysts could be relevant to nuclear waste management strategies, as the mildly radioactive and depleted uranium produced as waste by the nuclear power industry could be a valuable resource.
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