Enhancement of lithium-mediated ammonia synthesis by addition of oxygen

Katja Li, Suzanne Z. Andersen, Michael J. Statt, Mattia Saccoccio, Vanessa J. Bukas, Kevin Krempl, Rokas Sažinas, Jakob B. Pedersen, Vahid Shadravan, Yuanyuan Zhou, Debasish Chakraborty, Jakob Kibsgaard, Peter C.K. Vesborg, Jens K. Nørskov*, Ib Chorkendorff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Owing to the worrying increase in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, there is a need to electrify fossil-fuel–powered chemical processes such as the Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis. Lithium-mediated electrochemical nitrogen reduction has shown preliminary promise but still lacks sufficient faradaic efficiency and ammonia formation rate to be industrially relevant. Here, we show that oxygen, previously believed to hinder the reaction, actually greatly improves the faradaic efficiency and stability of the lithium-mediated nitrogen reduction when added to the reaction atmosphere in small amounts. With this counterintuitive discovery, we reach record high faradaic efficiencies of up to 78.0 ± 1.3% at 0.6 to 0.8 mole % oxygen in 20 bar of nitrogen. Experimental x-ray analysis and theoretical microkinetic modeling shed light on the underlying mechanism.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number6575
Pages (from-to)1593-1597
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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