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Making ammonia at milder conditions

By Tetsuo Satoh |

Ammonia is a crucial chemical feedstock for fertilizer production, as well as a potential energy carrier. However, the current, century-old method of synthesizing ammonia, the Haber–Bosch process, consumes a great deal of energy, operating at high pressures (several hundred atmospheres) and temperatures (400–600°C). To reduce energy consumption, a process and a substance that can catalyze ammonia synthesis under mild conditions (350–400°C and 10–100 atm) are needed. Now, associate professor Katsutoshi Nagaoka and colleagues at the Faculty of Engineering, Oita University (Japan; www.oita-u.ac.jp) have developed a ruthenium nano-layer supported on praseodymium oxide (Ru/Pr2O3), which is said to have the world’s highest catalytic activity for NH3 synthesis under relatively mild conditions. The researchers showed that Ru/Pr2O3 — without any dopant — catalyzes NH3 synthesis with a production velocity of about 15,000 μmol/g.h, which is almost 1.8 times that of other reported highly active catalysts, such as Ru/CeO2 and Ru/MgO. A space velocity of 18 L/g . h was observed at a reaction pressure of 9 atm and temperature of 390°C. The new catalyst system has the following two features: (1) Ru is supported on the Pr2O3 catalyst…
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