NREL finds method for more sustainable ammonia production

April 25, 2016 |

In Colorado, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have demonstrated the way a new process using light to reduce dinitrogen in ammonia could inspire the development of more sustainable processes for ammonia production.

According to the study, photochemical (photon) energy can serve as a substitute for the adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP)-dependent electron transfer mechanism typically used in biology to drive nitrogenase to reduce dinitrogen (N2) to ammonia (NH3). Scientists at NREL collaborated with researchers at Utah State University, University of Colorado Boulder, and Montana State University to develop the new ammonia-producing process, devising a way to harvest light to initiate the enzymatic reduction of N2.

“Not only were we able to prove the light-driven process successful for the first time, but the rates of ammonia production were shown to be a good approximation to those of the ATP-dependent reaction, at 60-70 percent,” said NREL Research Scientist Paul King.

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