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Nitrogen Fixation with Water Vapor by Nonequilibrium Plasma: toward Sustainable Ammonia Production

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journal contribution
posted on 12.02.2020 by Yury Gorbanev, Elise Vervloessem, Anton Nikiforov, Annemie Bogaerts
Ammonia is a crucial nutrient used for plant growth and as a building block in the pharmaceutical and chemical industry, produced via nitrogen fixation of the ubiquitous atmospheric N2. Current industrial ammonia production relies heavily on fossil resources, but a lot of work is put into developing nonfossil-based pathways. Among these is the use of nonequilibrium plasma. In this work, we investigated water vapor as a H source for nitrogen fixation into NH3 by nonequilibrium plasma. The highest selectivity toward NH3 was observed with low amounts of added H2O vapor, but the highest production rate was reached at high H2O vapor contents. We also studied the role of H2O vapor and of the plasma-exposed liquid H2O in nitrogen fixation by using isotopically labeled water to distinguish between these two sources of H2O. We show that added H2O vapor, and not liquid H2O, is the main source of H for NH3 generation. The studied catalyst- and H2-free method offers excellent selectivity toward NH3 (up to 96%), with energy consumption (ca. 95–118 MJ/mol) in the range of many plasma-catalytic H2-utilizing processes.

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