A team of UNT Chemistry researchers led by three faculty members--Professors Jeffry A. Kelber, Thomas R. Cundari, and Francis D'Souza--has received a major grant from the National Science Foundation's Division of Materials Research to investigate fundamental chemical interactions relevant to the conversion of nitrogen to ammonia via energy-efficient chemical routes. Because ammonia is a key ingredient in fertilizers, its production is vital to agriculture and food security. However, ammonia is currently produced by the Haber-Bosch Process, an energy-intensive process that consumes 1-2% of the world's energy supply and also produces significant amounts of the greenhouse gas CO2. The research will investigate a new potential route to nitrogen reduction based on electrocatalysis, an energetically and environmentally friendly alternative technology that could have enormous benefits for the environment and the energy supply compared with conventional routes such as the Haber-Bosch Process. The research will investigate new ammonia synthesis catalysts based on oxides and oxynitrides of Earth-abundant transition metals, and the raw material will be abundant dinitrogen gas, which comprises 78% of Earth's atmosphere. The three research groups will combine their complementary expertise in surface science (Kelber), electrochemistry (D'Souza), and catalyst modeling (Cundari) to attack this complex and highly impactful area of research. The grant will provide financial support for UNT Chemistry graduate students who will contribute to this project as part of their Ph.D. dissertation research.
UPDATE: On September 1, 2021, UNT pubished an article about this research collaboration. You can view the UNT article here.