What is it about?
Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a byproduct of farming and burning fossil fuels. It is a harmful greenhouse gas as well as an ozone depleting substance (ODS). Thus, N2O must be cleaned up from the atmosphere to avoid potential harm. The most sustainable and cleanest way of removing N2O ¬is to chemically reduce it to harmless nitrogen and water. This process requires the use of catalysts. Catalysts are chemicals that speed up a chemical process but themselves remain unchanged. Several researchers have developed catalysts to convert N2O to harmless chemicals. For instance, Milstein and colleagues have developed a ruthenium (Ru) based pincer catalyst to convert N2O to nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Now, a team of researchers has tried to understand the workings of this new reaction catalyzed by the Ru pincer catalyst using advanced quantum mechanical modeling. They report that the reaction can be carried out under milder conditions and uses carbon monoxide as a reducing agent. Almost all the steps involved are easy, except one, which tends to change the structure of the catalyst and reduce its performance. The researchers propose methods to avoid this problem and improve the catalyst’s efficiency.
Photo by Robert Wiedemann on Unsplash
Why is it important?
N2O levels have remained constant over the last few decades and will likely double by 2050. Since most of the N2O emissions come from food production, this rise in the level is rather inevitable. Thus, the most efficient way of curbing N2O levels without hampering food production is to reduce it by chemical treatment. Newer catalysts that help to convert N2O to harmless chemicals are thus needed. This study offers valuable insights into the workings of one such important catalyst. KEY TAKEAWAY: Ru pincer catalysts can help fix N2O from the atmosphere into harmless chemicals. Details of the reaction process and workings of the catalysts can help to improve their applicability and efficiency.
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This page is a summary of: Mechanism of the Facile Nitrous Oxide Fixation by Homogeneous Ruthenium Hydride Pincer Catalysts, Inorganic Chemistry, June 2020, American Chemical Society (ACS), DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.0c01252.
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