Dissociating stable nitrogen molecules under mild conditions by cyclic strain engineering

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Science Advances  01 Nov 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 11, eaax8275
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax8275


All quiet on the nitrogen front. The dissociation of stable diatomic nitrogen molecules (N2) is one of the most challenging tasks in the scientific community and currently requires both high pressure and high temperature. Here, we demonstrate that N2 can be dissociated under mild conditions by cyclic strain engineering. The method can be performed at a critical reaction pressure of less than 1 bar, and the temperature of the reaction container is only 40°C. When graphite was used as a dissociated N* receptor, the normalized loading of N to C reached as high as 16.3 at/at %. Such efficient nitrogen dissociation is induced by the cyclic loading and unloading mechanical strain, which has the effect of altering the binding energy of N, facilitating adsorption in the strain-free stage and desorption in the compressive strain stage. Our finding may lead to opportunities for the direct synthesis of N-containing compounds from N2.

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