Skip to main content
Research Highlight | Materials Science Division

Stabilization of low valent zirconium nitrides in titanium nitride: toward nitrogen reduction reaction (NRR)

In a study published in ACS Applied Energy Materials, researchers report promising electrocatalyst for stabilization of the nitrogen reduction reaction to generate amonnia.

Scientific Achievement

The low temperature (250 ˚C) plasma-enhanced atomic layer deposition of TiZrN alloys yields films with low Zr valence. In optimized Ti-to-Zr-ratio thin films, a high electrochemical surface area remains even after air exposure.

Significance and Impact

Zirconium nitride with a metal valence state of (III) is computationally predicted to be one of the most promising NRR electrocatalysts to generate ammonia at minimal overpotential.

Research Details

  • Zn(III)N is prone to oxidation to the thermodynamically more stable, but catalytically inert and electrically insulating Zr(IV)3N4
  • High temperature (700 ˚C) is required for challenging Zn(III)N conventional synthesis, severely limiting its experimental application as an electrocatalyst.
  • At low Zr:Ti ratios, experimentally measured binding energies are consistent with those of Zr(III)N.

Work was performed at Argonne National Laboratory.


Download this highlight

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.