Exploring the limits: A low-pressure, low-temperature Haber-Bosch process

Aleksandra Vojvodic, Andrew James Medford, Felix Studt, Frank Abild-Pedersen, Tuhin Suvra Khan, T. Bligaard, J. K. Nørskov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The Haber-Bosch process for ammonia synthesis has been suggested to be the most important invention of the 20th century, and called the 'Bellwether reaction in heterogeneous catalysis'. We examine the catalyst requirements for a new low-pressure, low-temperature synthesis process. We show that the absence of such a process for conventional transition metal catalysts can be understood as a consequence of a scaling relation between the activation energy for N2 dissociation and N adsorption energy found at the surface of these materials. A better catalyst cannot obey this scaling relation. We define the ideal scaling relation characterizing the most active catalyst possible, and show that it is theoretically possible to have a low pressure, low-temperature Haber-Bosch process. The challenge is to find new classes of catalyst materials with properties approaching the ideal, and we discuss the possibility that transition metal compounds have such properties.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChemical Physics Letters
Pages (from-to)108-112
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

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