Diamond Photocatalysis can reduce Nitrogen to Ammonia

Our newest paper, published June 30, 2013 in Nature Materials, we demonstrate a fundamentally new approach to photocatalytic reduction of N2 and other small molecules.

The reduction of nitrogen to ammonia is the world's most energy-intensive chemical reaction, typically carried out a very high temperatures and pressures. In this paper, we show that when diamond (including inexpensive diamond grit) is illuminated with ultraviolet light, it emits electrons into water that form solvated electrons that can reduce N2 to NH3. While the overall efficiency is low, the idea of using solvated electrons as a reduction source is a new approach to photocatalysis that can be applied to very difficult-to-reduce species.  For more information, see the article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nmat3696 and the perspective piece by Christoph Nebel at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nmat3714.