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Nitrogen fixation under ambient conditions

By Tetsuo Satoh |

The transition-metal-catalyzed reduction of nitrogen is an alternative to the traditional energy-intensive Haber-Bosch process for producing ammonia. In these reaction systems, metallocenes or potassium graphite are typically used as the reducing reagent, and conjugate acids of pyridines or related compounds are used as a proton source. To develop a next-generation nitrogen-fixation system, these reagents should be low cost, readily available and environmentally friendly. Back in 2010, professor Yoshiaki Nishibayshi and colleagues at the University of Tokyo (www.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/soe/index.html) developed a molybdenum-nitrogen complex catalyst having a PNP (phosphorus-nitrogen-phosphorus)-type pincer ligand that produces 23 molecules of NH3 per catalyst molecule. But the catalytic activity was rather low due to the decomposition of the catalyst system during the reaction. Now, the research teams of Nishibayshi and Kazunari Yoshizawa at Kyushu University have designed a new PNP-type pincer ligand, which combines samarium (II) diiodide (SmI2) with alcohols or water. This new catalyst system enables the fixation of nitrogen by molybdenum complexes under ambient conditions. Up to 4,350 equivalents of ammonia can be produced (based on the…
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