Advanced electrocatalysts for ammonia synthesis with validated analysis

February 21st, 2022

R&D Focus Areas:

Lead Organisation:
University of New South Wales (UNSW)

Not applicable


Start date:
January 2021

Completion date:
January 2024

Key contacts:
Professor Chuan Zhao:

AUD$442,296 – Australian Research Council (Discovery Project)

Project summary description:
Ammonia is one of the most produced chemicals worldwide and considered as an important player in the hydrogen economy, but current manufacturing industries consume massive amounts of energy and emit harmful greenhouse gases. This project aims to develop a sustainable electrochemical system for ammonia synthesis using electricity and atmospheric nitrogen.

A family of porous catalysts with nanoconfined ionic liquids will be developed to drive nitrogen reduction by enhancing the reaction kinetics. Inspired from nitrogenase, metal-sulfur-carbon (M-S-C) linkages at atomic scale will be developed to enhance the atomic utilisation of the catalyst for enhanced nitrogen reduction. Rigorous experimental protocols and novel analytical methods will be developed for quantification of electro-synthesised ammonia. This will improve the reliability of the data in this field along with robust approaches to detect ammonia.

A prototype gas diffusion layer-assisted electrolyser will be demonstrated by coupling with oxygen evolution and hydrogen oxidation reactions for selective ammonia synthesis at a reasonable production rate. Hydrogen produced from water splitting will be used as a continuous proton source for ammonia production (Electrochemical Haber-Bosch process).

Related publications and key links:
Zhao Group page:


  1. I. Ahmed, D. B. Hibbert, C. Zhao, Rational catalyst design and mechanistic evaluation for electrochemical nitrogen reduction at ambient conditions, Green Energy & Environment, 2022.
  2. I. Ahmed, L. J. Arachchige, Z. Su, D. B. Hibbert, C. Sun, and C. Zhao, Nitrogenase-Inspired Atomically Dispersed Fe–S–C Linkages for Improved Electrochemical Reduction of Dinitrogen to Ammonia, ACS Catalysis, 12, 1443-1451, 2022.

Higher degree studies supported:
Two PhD students


Reviewed: April 2023