A low-crystalline ruthenium nano-layer supported on praseodymium oxide as an active catalyst for ammonia synthesis
Ammonia is a crucial chemical feedstock for fertilizer production and is a potential energy carrier. However, the current method of synthesizing ammonia, the Haber–Bosch process, consumes a great deal of energy. To reduce energy consumption, a process and a substance that can catalyze ammonia synthesis under mild conditions (low temperature and low pressure) are strongly needed. Here we show that Ru/Pr2O3 without any dopant catalyzes ammonia synthesis under mild conditions at 1.8 times the rates reported with other highly active catalysts. Scanning transmission electron micrograph observations and energy dispersive X-ray analyses revealed the formation of low-crystalline nano-layers of ruthenium on the surface of Pr2O3. Furthermore, CO2 temperature-programmed desorption revealed that the catalyst was strongly basic. These unique structural and electronic characteristics are considered to synergistically accelerate the rate-determining step of NH3 synthesis, cleavage of the NN bond. We expect that the use of this catalyst will be a starting point for achieving efficient ammonia synthesis.