Direct conversion of dinitrogen to nitriles

September 13, 2016

Ammonia-free method conserves resources and energy

RIKEN CSRS has succeeded in synthesizing nitriles directly from dinitrogen (N2) through the use of a four-titanium nucleus complex. Nitriles are an important intermediary substance in the chemical industry.

Dinitrogen—the molecule composed of two nitrogen atoms that makes up most of the atmosphere—is very stable as the two atoms form a strong triple bond. Ironically, this stability makes it difficult to directly convert dinitrogen into nitrogen-containing organic compounds. Normally, such compounds are synthesized from ammonia, which itself is created through the energy-intensive Haber-Bosch process. Nitriles, a type of nitrogen-containing molecule, are overwhelmingly synthesized with methods that use ammonia as the feedstock.

RIKEN CSRS researchers have built further on previous research, where they used a novel trinuclear titanium complex that cleaves and hydrogenates dinitrogen, and facilitates the ring cleavage and transformation of the stable C-C bonds in benzene at relatively mild temperatures and pressures. In the current research, they developed a new tetranuclear titanium complex to cleave dinitrogen without the need for any specialized reagent. They also succeeded in directly synthesizing nitriles from the cleaved nitrogen molecules and readily available acid chlorides.

This method should pave the way for the further development of resource- and energy-conserving processes based on the direct synthesis of nitrogen-containing compounds from dinitrogen.


Original article
Angewandte Chemie International Edition doi:10.1002/anie.201607426
M. M. Guru, T. Shima, Z. Hou,
"Conversion of Dinitrogen to Nitriles at a Multinuclear Titanium Framework".

Zhaomin Hou; Group Director
Takanori Shima; Senior Research Scientist
Advanced Catalysis Research Group