Researchers Developed Dentrification Catalysts

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Researchers developed artificial catalysts that imitates the denitrification enzyme of microorganisms, according to a report published on June 1, 2018.

This study was conducted by the researchers at Riken. The nitrogen cycle can be sustained only if denitrification catalysts that can reduce nitrate and nitrite to N2 is developed. Until now, regulating the catalytic selectivity has been a challenge so far, as controlling of complex multi-electron/proton reactions were difficult. This newly developed dentrification catalyst showed positive results in converting nitrite ions into harmless N2.

The microorganisms that perform multi-step reactions under mild conditions using four enzymes were analyzed by the researchers. It was found that the catalyst composed of the enzyme containing Mo as the active center of the enzyme was able to efficiently detoxify the nitrite ions into N2 under mild conditions. Moreover, this was achieved without using a large-scale drainage treatment installation. They made use of a hydrothermal synthesis method to fabricate the catalyst with the pterin-like structure. This was done to confirm the presence of a MoS4 structure in the catalyst.

The study also shows that the selectivity of electrochemical reactions can be enhanced by using the sequential proton–electron transfer (SPET) pathway. The selectivity of an oxo-molybdenum sulfide electro-catalyst toward nitrite reduction to dinitrogen exhibited a volcano-type pH dependency with a maximum at pH 5. The pH-dependent formation of the intermediate species was in accord with a mathematical prediction that the pKa of the reaction intermediates determines the pH-dependence of the SPET-derived product. A Faradaic efficiency of 13.5% for nitrite reduction to N2 was achieved by utilizing this acute pH dependence.

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