(407c) Imagining Nitrogen Fixation at Lithium Interphases Via Cryo-EM | AIChE

(407c) Imagining Nitrogen Fixation at Lithium Interphases Via Cryo-EM


Li, Y. - Presenter, University of California, Los Angeles
Since early efforts by PI Li to adapt cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) towards battery research, significant breakthroughs have been made in our fundamental understanding of how batteries operate and fail. Now, our present work further advances cryo-EM towards the field of electrocatalysis for the first time, providing new findings that have eluded past studies. Combined with a multiscale approach, our cryo-EM experiments reveal the precise role of metallic lithium and its solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) in the electrosynthesis of ammonia. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we discover that the SEI layer prevents nitrogen fixation and must be disrupted for catalytic activity. This surprising finding completely revises our previous understanding of lithium-mediated ammonia synthesis and provides new insights for designing electrochemical systems to decarbonize future fertilizer production (Fig. 1).