The secret to increase the selectivity of electrochemical reactions

December 17, 2020

Atomic scale explanation on the mechanism of selective nitrogen-nitrogen coupling

An international collaborative research group between RIKEN CSRS, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Korea Basic Science Institute has revealed the mechanism behind the selectivity of catalytic  nitrogen-nitrogen (N-N) coupling at the atomic level.

Electrochemical reactions have attracted attention throughout the world recently as a method to construct chemical reaction systems using renewable energy, such as the electricity generated from solar cells.

In 2018, the group showed that "modification of the timing for the electron-proton (hydrogen ion) transfer” is a viable strategy to enhance the selectivity of electrochemical reactions. In order to demonstrate this concept, the group identifed the mechanism of selective N-N coupling , and tried to visualize the protons and electrons involved in the reaction. As a result, the group found that when molybdenum sulfide (MoS2) was used as the electrocatalyst, a proton located 3.26 angstroms (Å, 1Å is ten billionth of a meter) from Mo is the key to increase the selectivity.

This study has identified the mechanism to increase electrochemical selectivity at the atomic level, which may help remove toxic nitrite ions (NO2-) from the environment.


Original article
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
D. He, H. Ooka, Y. Kim, Y. Li, F. Jin, S. H. Kim, R. Nakamura,
"Atomic-scale Evidence for Highly Selective Electrocatalytic N-N Coupling on Metallic MoS2".

Ryuhei Nakamura
Team Leader
Biofunctional Catalyst Research Team