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Inspired by the structure of catalytic sites in molybdenum sulfides for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER), we report three novel catalysts sharing a molecular motif of MoO(S2)2bpy-R possessing tunable electronic properties. By varying the substitution on the bpy ligand, we demonstrate the induction effect on the S−S ligand, thereby tuning the rate constants for HER and overpotentials.
Molybdenum sulfides represent state-of-the-art, non-platinum electrocatalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). According to the Sabatier principle, the hydrogen binding strength to the edge active sites should be neither too strong nor too weak. Therefore, it is of interest to develop a molecular motif that mimics the catalytic sites structurally and possesses tunable electronic properties that influence the hydrogen binding strength. Furthermore, molecular mimics will be important for providing mechanistic insight toward the HER with molybdenum sulfide catalysts. In this work, a modular method to tune the catalytic properties of the S–S bond in MoO(S2)2L2 complexes is described. We studied the homogeneous electrocatalytic hydrogen production performance metrics of three catalysts with different bipyridine substitutions. By varying the electron-donating abilities, we present the first demonstration of using the ligand to tune the catalytic properties of the S–S bond in molecular MoS2 edge-site mimics. This work can shed light on the relationship between the structure and electrocatalytic activity of molecular MoS2 catalysts and thus is of broad importance from catalytic hydrogen production to biological enzyme functions.
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