University of Amsterdam licenses novel molecules for hydrogen generation to French company PorphyChem

IXA office UvA-HvA (Innovation Exchange Amsterdam) recently licensed the rights for the commercialisation of novel molecules for hydrogen generation to the French company PorphyChem. Researchers at the UvA's Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) developed the synthesis of these so-called 'metalloporphyrins', which can enable sustainable sunlight-driven hydrogen production from water.

PorphyChem, based in Dijon, holds more than 35 years of experience in porphyrin chemistry as well as process scale up, manufacturing, marketing and worldwide distribution. PorphyChem will be leading the commercialisation process of the new molecules by producing the compounds on a large scale and providing these to a network of companies for research and commercial purposes.

Artificial photosynthesis

The new molecules are the result of PhD research by Hung-Cheng Chen of the Molecular Photonics group at HIMS under the supervision of group co-leader professor Fred Brouwer. Earlier this year, Chen graduated on the subject of 'Solar fuels via artificial photosynthesis'. Photosynthesis is seen as the ultimate model for biofuel production, its potential having been proven by nature. Artificial photosynthesis could therefore provide a valuable sustainable solution for the world’s future energy demands.

In their research in the field of ‘Nature Inspired Catalysis’, Chen and Brouwer developed two new molecules that mimic the natural photosynthetic pigment chlorophyll a. Their very photostable metalloporphyrins act as so-called 'sensitizers' for sunlight-driven water oxidation for hydrogen production. They capture solar energy to produce electrons that split water into oxygen and hydrogen.

Abundantly available compounds

Contrary to currently used photosensitizers which contain rare and expensive metals, the new metalloporphyrins contain abundantly available and far cheaper compounds. The Amsterdam researchers therefore see great opportunities for their molecules.

In cooperation with IXA, the researcher filed patent applications with the European Patent Office on 26 February 2015. IXA also assisted the researchers in the identification of potential partners to bring the new molecules to market. On 4 April 2016 the license agreement was signed with the French chemical company PorphyChem.

Hung-Cheng Chen’s PhD research was funded by the Dutch Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM) and the Dutch national research project BioSolar Cells.

Credits picture: Hung-Cheng Chen