NH3 Electrosynthesis from N2 Molecules: Progresses, Challenges, and Future Perspectives

Yongwen Ren, Shaofeng Li, Chang Yu*, Yihan Zheng, Cheng Wang, Bingzhi Qian, Linshan Wang, Wenhui Fang, Ying Sun, Jieshan Qiu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewpeer-review


Green ammonia (NH3), made by using renewable electricity to split nearly limitless nitrogen (N2) molecules, is a vital platform molecule and an ideal fuel to drive the sustainable development of human society without carbon dioxide emission. The NH3 electrosynthesis field currently faces the dilemma of low yield rate and efficiency; however, decoupling the overlapping issues of this area and providing guidelines for its development directions are not trivial because it involves complex reaction process and multidisciplinary entries (for example, electrochemistry, catalysis, interfaces, processes, etc.). In this Perspective, we introduce a classification scheme for NH3 electrosynthesis based on the reaction process, namely, direct (N2 reduction reaction) and indirect electrosynthesis (Li-mediated/plasma-enabled NH3 electrosynthesis). This categorization allows us to finely decouple the complicated reaction pathways and identify the specific rate-determining steps/bottleneck issues for each synthesis approach such as N2 activation, H2 evolution side reaction, solid-electrolyte interphase engineering, plasma process, etc. We then present a detailed overview of the latest progresses on solving these core issues in terms of the whole electrochemical system covering the electrocatalysts, electrodes, electrolytes, electrolyzers, etc. Finally, we discuss the research focuses and the promising strategies for the development of NH3 electrosynthesis in the future with a multiscale perspective of atomistic mechanisms, nanoscale electrocatalysts, microscale electrodes/interfaces, and macroscale electrolyzers/processes. It is expected that this Perspective will provide the readers with an in-depth understanding of the bottleneck issues and insightful guidance on designing the efficient NH3 electrosynthesis systems.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)6409–6421
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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