Research Update: High-performance artificial nitrogen fixation at ambient conditions using a metal-free electrocatalyst

     Recently Prof. Xuping Sun from the Institute of Fundamental and Frontier Sciences (IFFS), has published an article titled “High-performance artificial nitrogen fixation at ambient conditions using a metal-free electrocatalyst” in Nature Communications.. IFFS is the first author affiliation and Prof. Xuping Sun is corresponding author.

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    Conversion of naturally abundant nitrogen to ammonia is a key (bio)chemical process to sustain life and represents a major challenge in chemistry and biology. Electrochemical reduction is emerging as a sustainable strategy for artificial nitrogen fixation at ambient conditions by tackling the hydrogen- and energy-intensive operations of the Haber–Bosch process. However, it is severely challenged by nitrogen activation and requires efficient catalysts for the nitrogen reduction reaction. Here we report that a boron carbide nanosheet acts as a metal-free catalyst for high-performance electrochemical nitrogen-to-ammonia fixation at ambient conditions. The catalyst can achieve a high ammonia yield of 26.57 μg h–1 mg–1cat. and a fairly high Faradaic efficiency of 15.95% at –0.75 V versus reversible hydrogen electrode, placing it among the most active aqueous-based nitrogen reduction reaction electrocatalysts. Notably, it also shows high electrochemical stability and excellent selectivity. The catalytic mechanism is assessed using density functional theory calculations.


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