Catalyst For Change

John Berry is a transition metal chemist. That means he experiments with elements in “the big middle part of the periodic table” that are able to bond with one another in strange and interesting ways, producing electronic properties that can initiate new types of chemistry—including in the field of catalysis. That’s the area Berry’s been exploring, with Department of Energy funding.

Now, through a novel catalytic process involving the oxidation of ammonia through bonds with a quirky element called “ruthenium,” Berry’s lab has discovered a way to spontaneously produce nitrogen. It’s incredibly exciting because no added energy is required, and the process can potentially be harnessed to produce electricity—cleanly. An important paper in Nature Chemistry, a patent from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), and funding from DoE are powering Berry and his students to work on fuel cells that could pave the way to a nitrogen-based fuel economy

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