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Recently, the electrochemical N2 reduction reaction (NRR) in aqueous electrolytes at ambient temperature and pressure has demonstrated its unique advantages and potentials. The reactants are directly derived from gaseous N2 and water, which are naturally abundant, and NH3 production is important for fertilizers and other industrial applications. To improve the conversion yield and selectivity (mainly competing with water reduction), electrocatalysts must be rationally designed to optimize the mass transport, chemisorption, and transduction pathways of protons and electrons. In this review, we summarize recent progress in the electrochemical NRR. Studies of electrocatalyst designs are summarized for different categories, including metal-based catalysts, metal oxide-derived catalysts, and hybrid catalysts. Strategies for enhancing the NRR performance based on the facet orientation, metal oxide interface, crystallinity, and nitrogen vacancies are presented. Additional system designs, such as lithium-nitrogen batteries, and the solvent effect are introduced. Finally, existing challenges and prospects are discussed.

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Publication history

Received: 14 November 2017
Revised: 14 December 2017
Accepted: 06 January 2018
Published: 22 May 2018
Issue date: June 2018

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© Tsinghua University Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgements

We thank the following funding agencies for supporting this work: the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Nos. 2017YFA0206901 and 2017YFA0206900), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 21473038 and 21773036), the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality (No. 17JC1402000), the Program for Professor of Special Appointment (Eastern Scholar) at Shanghai Institutions of Higher Learning, and the Collaborative Innovation Center of Chemistry for Energy Materials (2011-iChem).

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Email: nanores@tup.tsinghua.edu.cn

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