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Nature of Reactive Hydrogen for Ammonia Synthesis over a Ru/C12A7 Electride Catalyst...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Journal of the American Chemical Society
Publication Date
Page Numbers
7655 to 7667

Recently, there have been renewed interests in exploring new catalysts for ammonia synthesis under mild conditions. Electride-based catalysts are among the emerging ones. Ruthenium particles supported on an electride composed of a mixture of calcium and aluminum oxides (C12A7) have attracted great attention for ammonia synthesis due to their facile ability in activating N2 under ambient pressure. However, the exact nature of the reactive hydrogen species and the role of electride support still remain elusive for this catalytic system. In this work, we report for the first time that the surface-adsorbed hydrogen, rather than the hydride encaged in the C12A7 electride, plays a major role in ammonia synthesis over the Ru/C12A7 electride catalyst with the aid of in situ neutron scattering techniques. Combining in situ neutron diffraction, inelastic neutron spectroscopy, density functional theory (DFT) calculation, and temperature-programmed reactions, the results provide direct evidence for not only the presence of encaged hydrides during ammonia synthesis but also the strong thermal and chemical stability of the hydride species in the Ru/C12A7 electride. Steady state isotopic transient kinetic analysis (SSITKA) of ammonia synthesis showed that the coverage of reactive intermediates increased significantly when the Ru particles were promoted by the electride form (coverage up to 84%) of the C12A7 support rather than the oxide form (coverage up to 15%). Such a drastic change in the intermediate coverage on the Ru surface is attributed to the positive role of electride support where the H2 poisoning effect is absent during ammonia synthesis over Ru. The finding of this work has significant implications for understanding catalysis by electride-based materials for ammonia synthesis and hydrogenation reactions in general.