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      Challenges and prospects in the catalysis of electroreduction of nitrogen to ammonia

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          How a century of ammonia synthesis changed the world

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            Challenges in reduction of dinitrogen by proton and electron transfer.

            Ammonia is an important nutrient for the growth of plants. In industry, ammonia is produced by the energy expensive Haber-Bosch process where dihydrogen and dinitrogen form ammonia at a very high pressure and temperature. In principle one could also reduce dinitrogen upon addition of protons and electrons similar to the mechanism of ammonia production by nitrogenases. Recently, major breakthroughs have taken place in our understanding of biological fixation of dinitrogen, of molecular model systems that can reduce dinitrogen, and in the electrochemical reduction of dinitrogen at heterogeneous surfaces. Yet for efficient reduction of dinitrogen with protons and electrons major hurdles still have to be overcome. In this tutorial review we give an overview of the different catalytic systems, highlight the recent breakthroughs, pinpoint common grounds and discuss the bottlenecks and challenges in catalytic reduction of dinitrogen.
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              A theoretical evaluation of possible transition metal electro-catalysts for N2 reduction.

              Theoretical studies of the possibility of forming ammonia electrochemically at ambient temperature and pressure are presented. Density functional theory calculations were used in combination with the computational standard hydrogen electrode to calculate the free energy profile for the reduction of N(2) admolecules and N adatoms on several close-packed and stepped transition metal surfaces in contact with an acidic electrolyte. Trends in the catalytic activity were calculated for a range of transition metal surfaces and applied potentials under the assumption that the activation energy barrier scales with the free energy difference in each elementary step. The most active surfaces, on top of the volcano diagrams, are Mo, Fe, Rh, and Ru, but hydrogen gas formation will be a competing reaction reducing the faradaic efficiency for ammonia production. Since the early transition metal surfaces such as Sc, Y, Ti, and Zr bind N-adatoms more strongly than H-adatoms, a significant production of ammonia compared with hydrogen gas can be expected on those metal electrodes when a bias of -1 V to -1.5 V vs. SHE is applied. Defect-free surfaces of the early transition metals are catalytically more active than their stepped counterparts.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Catalysis
                Nat Catal
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                2520-1158
                April 2019
                March 18 2019
                April 2019
                : 2
                : 4
                : 290-296
                Article
                10.1038/s41929-019-0252-4
                ba42b0bd-5827-47d8-a0a1-6f2de60decc8
                © 2019

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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