Rice University scientists have coined an inorganic method to synthesize eco-friendly ammonia and can produce precious chemicals on demand under ambient conditions.
The Brown School of Engineering lab of materials scientist Jun Lou manipulated a two-dimensional crystal it understands well—molybdenum disulphide—and turned it right into a catalyst by eradicating atoms of sulphur from the latticelike structure and replacing the uncovered molybdenum with cobalt.
This allowed the material to imitate the organic process bacteria use to turn atmospheric dinitrogen into ammonia in organisms, including in humans, who use ammonia to assist liver function.
The chemical process will permit ammonia to be produced anywhere it is required as a small-scale adjunct to trade, which produces millions of tons of the chemical annually via the inorganic Haber-Bosch course.
The researchers already knew that molybdenum disulphide had an affinity to bond with dinitrogen, a naturally available molecule of two strongly bonded nitrogen atoms that form around 78% of Earth’s environment.
Computational simulations by Mingjie Liu, an analysis associate at Brookhaven National Laboratory, confirmed replacing some exposed molybdenum atoms with cobalt would enhance the compound’s skill to facilitate dinitrogen’s reduction to ammonia.
Lab tests at Rice confirmed this was so. The researchers assembled samples of the nanoscale material by rising defective molybdenum disulphide crystals on carbon material and adding cobalt. With present applied, the compound yielded over 10 grams of ammonia per hour using 1 kilogram of catalyst.