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Fluorine Modification Promoted Water Dissociation into Atomic Hydrogen on a Copper Electrode for Efficient Neutral Nitrate Reduction and Ammonia Recovery

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posted on 2024-04-14, 18:04 authored by Weixing Zhang, Yancai Yao, Ziyue Chen, Shengxi Zhao, Furong Guo, Lizhi Zhang
Electrocatalytic nitrate reduction to ammonia (NITRR) offers an attractive solution for alleviating environmental concerns, yet in neutral media, it is challenging as a result of the reliance on the atomic hydrogen (H*) supply by breaking the stubborn HO–H bond (∼492 kJ/mol) of H2O. Herein, we demonstrate that fluorine modification on a Cu electrode (F-NFs/CF) favors the formation of an O–H···F hydrogen bond at the Cu–H2O interface, remarkably stretching the O–H bond of H2O from 0.98 to 1.01 Å and lowering the energy barrier of water dissociation into H* from 0.64 to 0.35 eV at neutral pH. As a benefit from these advantages, F-NFs/CF could rapidly reduce NO3 to NH3 with a rate constant of 0.055 min–1 and a NH3 selectivity of ∼100%, far higher than those (0.004 min–1 and 9.2%) of the Cu counterpart. More importantly, we constructed a flow-through coupled device consisting of a NITRR electrolyzer and a NH3 recovery unit, realizing 98.1% of total nitrogen removal with 99.3% of NH3 recovery and reducing the denitrification cost to $5.1/kg of N. This study offers an effective strategy to manipulate the generation of H* from water dissociation for efficient NO3-to-NH3 conversion and sheds light on the importance of surface modification on a Cu electrode toward electrochemical reactions.

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