Clean and Green: UCI Physicist Helps Invent Novel Way of Converting Nitrogen to Ammonia


Researchers have come up with a way to more sustainably produce ammonia using atoms of molybdenum as a catalyst for electrochemical conversion.

The ammonia you use to clean and disinfect your kitchen floor starts off as nitrogen, a gas that makes up almost 80 percent of Earth’s atmosphere. But the conversion requires the breaking of a strong triple-chemical bond in a high-heat, high-pressure industrial process.

UCI physicist Huolin Xin worked with his colleagues at Brookhaven National Laboratory to come up with a new, more sustainable way of producing ammonia, which is also a key ingredient in crop fertilizers. Their technique uses atomically dispersed molybdenum, a readily available metal, as a catalyst to electrochemically convert nitrogen to ammonia at room temperature and atmospheric pressure.

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Image via Brookhaven National Laboratory