SUN2RISE: THE ERC-STG PROJECT TARGETING SOLAR DRIVEN ELECTROCHEMICAL NITROGEN FIXATION FOR AMMONIA REFINERY
Abstract - The preservation of our planet is the most urgent issue in the world and the scientific communityis pushing a lot of researchersto work on technologies for the storage/conversion of CO2 into chemicals.However, it is easier not toproduce CO2 than setting-up plants to treat it.
In this framework, the ERC-StG project SuN2rise proposes an alternative breakthrough based on a versatile solar-drivenstrategy leading to redesign industrial processes.Facing the Haber-Bosch process for ammonia production (one of the most impactful chemical processes today), we proposethe electrochemical fixation of dinitrogen into ammonia, by simply using air, water and ambient conditions. The scientific aim is that of demonstrating an integrated device where a photovoltaic (PV)unit will power a regenerative electrocatalytic cell converting dinitrogen toammonia (E-NRR). A newly proposed Li-mediated approach under mild conditions, derived from an interdisciplinarycontamination between electrocatalysis and Li-batteries, will be the key towards N2 conversion, bypassing both thecompetitive hydrogen reduction reaction and the complete irreproducibility of recent E-NRR approaches attributed to N-contaminationsor degradation of N-based catalysts.
The team will further move beyond the state-of-the-art by fabricating transparent devices, that canbe integrated in greenhouses,allowing the production of ammonia and ammonium fertilizers directly in farms, bypassing the known issues related to themassive infrastructure of ammonia plants and difficulties in reaching remote communities. The proposed approach willsignificantly impact also the field of liquid fuels, being ammonia safer and with higher energy density than hydrogen.Achieving these goals will require multidisciplinary expertise in the field of chemical, material, process and deviceengineering.