Activation of dinitrogen (N2, 78%) and dioxygen (O2, 21%) has fascinated chemists and biochemists for decades. The industrial conversion of N2 to ammonia requires extremely high temperatures and pressure. Here we report the first example of N2 and O2 cleavage by a uranium complex, [N(CH2CH2NPiPr2)3U]2(TMEDA), under ambient conditions without an external reducing agent. The N2 triple bond breaking implies a U(III)-P(III) six-electron reduction. The hydrolysis of the N2 reduction product allows the formation of ammonia or nitrogen-containing organic compound.
Activation of the strongest triplet bond in molecular nitrogen (N2) under mild conditions is particularly challenging. Recently, its fixation and reduction were achieved by highly reactive dicoordinated borylene species at ambient conditions, ripping the limits of harsh reaction conditions by metallic species. Less reactive species with a facile preparation could be desirable for next-generation N2 activation. Now density functional theory calculations reveal that tricoordinated boranes could be a potential candidate of N2 activation/functionalization.
Molecular nitrogen (N2), an abundant component of the atmosphere, is appealing for industrial value‐added products. However, its intrinsic inertness limits its activation to mainly metallic species. Environmental concerns and harsh reaction conditions have resulted in a demand for alternate nonmetallic and nontoxic routes to activate and functionalize N2 at ambient conditions. Comprehensive density functional theory (DFT) calculations are performed on N2 activation by boron species, specifically for the experimentally more accessible tricoordinated boron compounds.
Molecular nitrogen (N2) is abundant in the atmosphere and nitrogen, found in many biomolecules, is an essential element of life. The Haber–Bosch process, developed over 100 years ago, requires relatively harsh conditions to activate N2 on the iron surface and generate ammonia for use as fertilizer or to produce other chemicals, leading to consumption of more than 2% of the world’s annual energy supply. Thus, developing approaches for N2 activation under mild conditions is particularly important and urgent.