Nitrogen fixation in a simulated natural environment (i.e., near ambient pressure, room temperature, pure water, and incident light) would provide a desirable approach to future nitrogen conversion. As the NN triple bond has a thermodynamically high cleavage energy, nitrogen reduction under such mild conditions typically undergoes associative alternating or distal pathways rather than following a dissociative mechanism. Here, we report that surface plasmon can supply sufficient energy to activate N2 through a dissociative mechanism in the presence of water and incident light, as evidenced by in situ synchrotron radiation-based infrared spectroscopy and near ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Theoretical simulation indicates that the electric field enhanced by surface plasmon, together with plasmonic hot electrons and interfacial hybridization, may play a critical role in NN dissociation. Specifically, AuRu core-antenna nanostructures with broadened light adsorption cross section and active sites achieve an ammonia production rate of 101.4 μmol g-1 h-1 without any sacrificial agent at room temperature and 2 atm pressure. This work highlights the significance of surface plasmon to activation of inert molecules, serving as a promising platform for developing novel catalytic systems.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry