Revealing nitrogen-containing species in commercial catalysts used for ammonia electrosynthesis
Licht, Stuart L.
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Cite this article Chen, Y., Liu, H., Ha, N. et al. Revealing nitrogen-containing species in commercial catalysts used for ammonia electrosynthesis. Nat Catal (2020)
Stimulated by the growing demand for sustainable and/or economical distributed ammonia synthesis, the electrochemical nitrogen reduction reaction has attracted considerable interest. The nitrogen-containing impurities in commercial metal-based nitrogen reduction reaction catalysts such as metal oxides and metallic irons have, however, been overlooked. Herein we report the presence of nitrogen-containing species in NOx− or nitrides at substantial levels revealed from many commercial catalysts. We call attention to the necessity to screen the NOx−/nitrides impurities in commercial catalysts, as the nitrogen impurities are not commonly listed in vendors’ assay documents. A simple two-step procedure (alkaline/acidic treatment followed by HPLC/UV–vis analysis) is recommended as a reliable protocol for screening NOx−/nitrides impurities in catalyst materials. A case analysis is also carried out on the previously reported H2O–NaOH–KOH system with both 15N-isotopic labelling and nitrogen elemental tracking, reassigning the true nitrogen source of the electrochemically produced NH3 from gaseous N2 to nitrogen-containing impurities in catalysts. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]
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