Availability and reactivity of N2(v) for NH3 synthesis by plasma catalysis

Brian N. Bayer, Sai Raskar, Igor V. Adamovich, Peter J. Bruggeman, Aditya Bhan

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3 Scopus citations


Production of vibrationally excited N2 (N2(v)) in atmospheric pressure nonthermal plasma and loss of N2(v) by gas-phase reactions and reactions on catalytic surfaces are analyzed to examine the role of N2(v) in NH3 formation by plasma catalysis. Vibrational state-to-state kinetic models complemented with molecular beam mass spectrometry (MBMS) measurements demonstrate that N2(v> 0) is produced with densities 100× greater than the density of N radicals by a radiofrequency atmospheric pressure plasma jet. The experimentally measured loss of N2(v) corresponds with a state-to-state kinetic model that describes loss of N2(v) by surface-mediated vibrational relaxation without consideration of reactions that convert N2(v) to NH3 over the catalyst surface. Rate constants for vibrational relaxation of N2(v) on catalyst surfaces exceed upper bounds on proposed rate constants for NH3 formation reactions from N2(v) over Fe when v < 9, Ni when v < 18, and Ag when v < 39, which indicates that only higher vibrational levels can possibly contribute to catalytic NH3 formation faster than they undergo vibrational relaxation on the surface. Densities of N2(v> 8), vibrational levels that can possibly react over Fe to form NH3 faster than they undergo vibrational relaxation, are less than or similar to N densities at the inlet of the catalyst bed and measured NH3 formation for the investigated conditions in this work, while densities of N2(v> 17) and N2(v> 38) are orders of magnitude below the N density at the inlet of the catalyst bed and the measured NH3 formation. The loss of N2(v) by vibrational relaxation on the surface limits the ability of N2(v) to contribute to catalytic NH3 formation and explains why N2(v) does not produce NH3 in quantities that are comparable to NH3 formation from N even though N2(v > 0) is more abundantly produced by the plasma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125005
JournalPlasma Sources Science and Technology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • ammonia synthesis
  • molecular beam mass spectrometry
  • plasma catalysis
  • state-to-state kinetic modeling
  • vibrational excitation


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