Ammonia is a widely produced chemical that is the basis of most fertilisers. However, it is currently derived from fossil fuels and there is an urgent need to develop sustainable approaches to its production. Ammonia is also being considered as a renewable energy carrier, allowing efficient storage and transportation of renewables. For these reasons, the electrochemical nitrogen reduction reaction (NRR) is currently being intensely investigated as the basis for future mass production of ammonia from renewables. This Perspective critiques current steps and miss-steps towards this important goal in terms of experimental methodology and catalyst selection, proposing a protocol for rigorous experimentation. We discuss the issue of catalyst selectivity and the approaches to promoting the NRR over H 2 production. Finally, we translate these mechanistic discussions, and the key metrics being pursued in the field, into the bigger picture of ammonia production by other sustainable processes, discussing benchmarks by which NRR progress can be assessed.
Available for download on Wednesday, September 18, 2019