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Frontiers of Optoelectronics

Front. Optoelectron.    2018, Vol. 11 Issue (1) : 92-96
Non-thermal plasma fixing of nitrogen into nitrate: solution for renewable electricity storage?
Yi HE, Zhengwu CHEN, Zha LI, Guangda NIU, Jiang TANG()
Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics (WNLO), Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430074, China
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The rapid deployment of solar and wind technology produces significant amount of low-quality electricity that calls for a better storage or usage instead of being discarded by the grid. Instead of electrochemical CO2 reduction and/or NH3 production, here we propose that non-thermal plasma oxidation of N2 into nitrate or other valuable nitrogen containing compounds deserve more research attention because it uses free air as the reactant and avoids the solubility difficulty, and also because its energy consumption is merely 0.2 MJ/mol, even lower than the industrially very successful Haber–Bosch process (0.48 MJ/mol) for NH3 production. We advocate that researchers from the plasma community and chemistry community should work together to build energy efficient non-thermal plasma setup, identify robust, active and low-cost catalyst, and understand the catalyzing mechanism in a plasma environment. We are confident that free production of nitrate with zero CO2 emission will come true in the near future.

Keywords energy storage      nitrogen fixation      non-thermal plasma     
Corresponding Authors: Jiang TANG   
Just Accepted Date: 09 February 2018   Online First Date: 28 March 2018    Issue Date: 02 April 2018
 Cite this article:   
Yi HE,Zhengwu CHEN,Zha LI, et al. Non-thermal plasma fixing of nitrogen into nitrate: solution for renewable electricity storage?[J]. Front. Optoelectron., 2018, 11(1): 92-96.
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Zhengwu CHEN
Zha LI
Guangda NIU
Jiang TANG
Fig.1  Scheme of molecular orbits of N2 and O2
Fig.2  Comparison of the energy consumption of nitrogen fixation [7]. The Haber–Bosch process now is close to its theoretical limits. Non-thermal plasma nitrogen fixation also demonstrates high efficiency and has even lower theoretical limit of power consumption
Fig.3  Scheme of the conversion between molecules and atoms [16]. In plasma, the conversion is most strong between N2 and N2(V). N2(E): electronically excited N2 molecules. N2(V): vibrationally excited N2 molecules. Thickness of the arrows is accord to the importance of the reactions. Dashed line means less important reaction
Fig.4  Scheme of the ideal setup of plasma-assisted nitrogen fixation and simplified process. MFC stands for mass flow controller; DBD stands for dielectric barrier discharge setup; FTIR stands for Fourier transform infrared spectrometer
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