A new method of producing ammonia could open the door

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image: The assembled Zn-NO battery has superior performance for ammonia production.
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Credit: Nano Research Energy, Tsinghua University Press

A solution to climate change could be under your bathroom sink. Ammonia, a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen (NH3) that is commonly known for its use as a household cleaner, could be used as an alternative fuel for vehicles or as a potential energy storage medium. However, traditional methods of producing ammonia from nitrogen oxide (NO) on a large scale are not energy efficient, and some of the more recent efforts to produce ammonia from a reaction of NO reduction have low ammonia yields. Now, researchers at Tsinghua University Press in China have developed an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient method to produce ammonia through an electrocatalytic reduction reaction of NO.

The work has been published in the journal Nanometer Research Energy July 07.

“The industrial-grade NH3 production still relies heavily on the Haber-Bosch process, requiring drastic reaction conditions due to slow kinetics, and the energy input aspect of the process inevitably results in a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions” , said corresponding author Xijun Liu of the school. of Resources, Environments and Materials at Guangxi University in Nanning, China. His reference to the Haber-Bosch process alludes to one of the first – and, since its development in the early 1900s, one of the most common – processes for producing NH3.

Because of these drawbacks, previous research has explored the electrocatalytic production – simply a catalyst in an electromagnetic reaction – of ammonia in water due to its carbon-free production using noble metal materials, carbon and single atom catalysts. However, the rate of return was well below the US Department of Energy’s target, the researchers said.

Researchers explored the reduction of the NO reaction (NORR) to ammonia using the synthesis of a nanoporous film of vanadium nitride (VN) supported on a carbon fiber fabric (written as np-VN/CF). They tested the new method, the novelty of which lies in using existing VN film materials in a new way and for a new purpose, with a zinc-nitrogen oxide battery.

“This engineered catalyst exhibits high power density and a correspondingly high ammonia yield rate when used as the cathode in a home-assembled Zn-NO battery,” Liu said. “We also found that the ¾ faraday efficiency or the way electrons, or charge, are transferred in a ¾ electrochemical transformation was improved. The NORR performance measures obtained are comparable to the best results recently reported. »

The high faraday efficiency can be attributed in part to the fact that some of the nitrogen has been “spiked” into the carbon fiber fabric, making it more likely to be highly conductive and therefore promote transfer dump.

To test the method with the battery, the researchers bubbled NO feed gas into the cathode – or the negatively charged part of a battery – battery chamber, which was separated from the positive charge by a bipolar membrane. The Zn-NO battery performance obtained exceeded previously reported results, according to the researchers. The measurements obtained from the experiments were tested in a three-electrode system and compared to the NORR activity of commercial VN powder – as opposed to film – cast on carbon fiber cloth. The VN film version outperformed the powder version, which had been used in previous research, in all measures taken. The researchers also performed density functional theory calculations to offer in-depth insight into NORR.

“Our work shows the potential application of nanoporous materials for high-performance electrochemical NH3 production,” Liu said.

Next steps in the research would include efforts to scale up the proof of concept demonstrated in this experiment.

“This work further confirms that NO electroreduction is a promising strategy for ambient ammonia synthesis that should be continuously developed,” Liu said.

The Natural Science Foundation of China and the Tianjin Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars funded this research.

Co-authors of the paper are Defeng Qi from School of Resources, Environments and Materials, Guangxi University and School of Materials Science and Engineering, Tianjin University of Technology , Tianjin China; Fnag Lv, Mengmeng Jin and Jun Luo from the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Tianjin University of Technology; Tianran Wei and Dui Ma from the School of Resources, Environments and Materials at Guangxi University; Ge Meng from the College of Chemistry and Materials Engineering, Wenzhou University in Wenzhou, China; Shusheng Zhang of Zhengzhou University College of Chemistry in Zhengzhou, China; Qian Liu of Chengdu University in Chengdu, China; Wenxian Liu from the College of Materials Science and Engineering; and Mohamed S. Hamdy of the Department of Chemistry, College of Science, King Khalid University in Abha, Saudi Arabia.

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About Nanometer Research Energy

Nanometer Research Energy is launched by Tsinghua University Press, aiming to be an international, open access and interdisciplinary journal. We will publish research on advanced advanced nanomaterials and nanotechnology for energy. It is dedicated to exploring various aspects of energy-related research that utilizes nanomaterials and nanotechnology, including but not limited to energy generation, conversion, storage, conservation , clean energy, etc. Nano Research Energy will publish four types of manuscripts, namely, Communications, Research Papers, Reviews and Perspectives in an open access form.

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