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Efficient and Sustainable Means to Produce Ammonia

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a group of researchers from University of Central Florida Virginia Tech published key observations on the electrochemical synthesis of ammonia, expanding research into sustainable fertilizers and supporting global food safety efforts.

Although many studies have been conducted on electrochemical ammonia production, the underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood. Image Credit: Adobe Stock

Ammonia, a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, is an important component of many fertilizers used in agriculture. However, its main production method, the Haber-Bosch process, is energy and fuel intensive, consuming 3% to 5% of global natural gas production and contributing more than 1% of global carbon emissions. I’m here.

Researchers have discovered the most effective way to produce ammonia through a more sustainable production method (electrochemical method) by using metallic ruthenium as a catalyst. According to the researchers, this method of production could be more sustainable if power from renewable sources such as solar or wind power is used to power the electrochemical synthesis.

The findings were recently published in the journal ACS Energy Letter.

Although there are many research efforts on electrochemical ammonia production, the researchers noted that the underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood.

But according to Xiaofeng Feng, a co-author of the study and a professor of physics at UCF, the new study helps provide a better picture of the reaction mechanism.

The results of this detailed work can provide important guidance to researchers on how to design more efficient catalysts for sustainable ammonia production..

Xiaofeng Feng, Research Co-Author, Professor of Physics, University of Central Florida

how they worked

Ruthenium is one of the most active catalysts for nitrogen reduction reactions that combine nitrogen and hydrogen from water molecules to form ammonia.

Using atomic layer deposition, the researchers were able to control the synthesized nanomaterials at the atomic scale and were able to test ruthenium nanoparticles ranging in size from 2 to 8 nm.

In layering the ruthenium atoms into the catalytic structure, the scientist seeks a specific arrangement of the ruthenium surface atoms, namely DFive Step site – was the most active site for the electrochemical nitrogen reduction reaction.

D.Five Stepsites, unlike other sites, have a “perfect balance” that favors the formation of N.2Scientists say the H-intermediate cannot be poisoned or rendered incapable of reacting by adsorbing new molecules.

Ruthenium nanoparticles with a diameter of 4 nm were found to have optimal catalytic performance for nitrogen reduction reactions. Activity peaked at 4 nm and decreased 5-fold with doubling of particle size. This demonstrates the importance of ruthenium particle size in catalysis.

Previous work by researchers to increase the efficiency of the electrochemical production of ammonia supported the current work by providing a mechanism understanding and research methodology.

Joint research

The new study is the result of collaboration between three research groups.

Feng and his students investigated ruthenium samples as catalysts for the electrochemical production of ammonia. His Parag Banerjee, co-author of the paper and professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at UCF, and his students devoted themselves to the precise synthesis of ruthenium metal nanoparticles.

In addition, Virginia Tech professor Hongliang Xin and his students conducted computational studies to model and recognize the atomic structures responsible for the best catalytic performance.

The researchers plan to further collaborate to develop more complex and efficient materials for sustainable ammonia production using atomic layer deposition, Feng said.

In addition, catalytic materials are used in advanced electrolyzers to improve yields and efficiencies in electric ammonia production.

Journal reference:

Fu, L., others(2022) Identification of the active site for ammonia electrosynthesis on ruthenium. ACS Energy Letter. doi.org/10.1021/acsenergylett.2c02175.

sauce: https://www.ucf.edu

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