Exploring Organic Dyes as Photocatalysts for Hydrogen Peroxide Chemistry

William Roberts

The logo for the Cook Lab.

The logo for the Cook Lab

Graduate Student Project


Every two-and-a-half-mile trip to the store releases one kilogram of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Sustainable fuel cell technology holds the potential to eliminate those emissions entirely. Hi, I'm Will Roberts and I am in my sophomore year, double-majoring in chemistry and biomedical sciences at UB. I met Dr. Tim Cook when I was taking his Honors General Chemistry course during my freshman year. Since then, I have been conducting research in his lab. The Cook group focuses primarily on preparation of molecules for use in self-assembly of multi-molecular architectures. Along with two graduate students in the lab, my job this past year has been to assist in the synthesis and characterization of dye molecules. Though there is currently a wide variety of renewable energy sources available for use in fuel cells, hydrogen peroxide is an ideal candidate for widespread adoption due to its simplicity of use. This research explores alternative ways to form hydrogen peroxide using water and atmospheric oxygen.


Organic dyes have versatile industrial applications in everything from food and textile manufacturing to cancer treatment and renewable energy. Two specific classes of chalcogen-containing organic dyes (pyrylium and xanthylium) will be explored for their use as photocatalysts in the formation of hydrogen peroxide from water and atmospheric oxygen. With the global energy crisis looming, renewable energy is an important area of research. Hydrogen peroxide, unlike other possible green sources of energy, benefits from its ease of sourcing and production, and simplicity of use. Energy stored in hydrogen peroxide is released through reoxidation back to water and oxygen. Synthesis and preliminary electrochemical studies of these dyes will be discussed. Spectroelectrochemical studies have been conducted in different oxidative and reductive regimes. Widespread adoption of hydrogen peroxide fuel cell technology is more attainable than ever before, and these studies provide understanding critical to its successful implementation.

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