Electrocatalytic nitrate-to-ammonia conversion with ~100% Faradaic efficiency via single-atom alloying

Jinmeng Cai, Yingying Wei, Ang Cao, Jingjing Huang, Zheng Jiang, Siyu Lu*, Shuang Quan Zang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Converting nitrate to ammonia (NH3) with the use of electricity produced from renewable energy provides an alternative and sustainable route for NH3 synthesis under ambient conditions. However, due to the complex mechanism involving eight electrons and nine protons transfer processes in nitrate-to-ammonia conversion, reactions run with Cu-based catalysts for NH3 often exhibit limited selectivity and yield. Here, we report a single-atom Ni-alloyed Cu catalyst that exclusively converts nitrate into NH3 with a maximum Faradaic efficiency of ~100% and a yield rate of 326.7 μmol h−1 cm−2 at − 0.55 V versus reversible hydrogen electrode (RHE). X-ray absorption fine structure evidence and density functional theory calculations reveal that the activated single Ni atom on the Cu catalyst regulates the third protonation step of the electrocatalytic nitrate reduction reaction (eNO3-RR) and increases the interaction between the Ni atom and the crucial NOOH* intermediate, thus decreasing the limiting potential and inhibiting byproduct formation. A rough estimation suggests that the price of fertilizer produced by this single-atom alloyed catalyst through the eNO3-RR is competitive with the Haber-Bosch process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121683
JournalApplied Catalysis B: Environmental
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Ammonia synthesis
  • Electrocatalytic
  • Faradaic efficiency
  • Nitrate reduction
  • Single-atom alloying


Dive into the research topics of 'Electrocatalytic nitrate-to-ammonia conversion with ~100% Faradaic efficiency via single-atom alloying'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this