Efficient conversion of low-concentration nitrate sources into ammonia on a Ru-dispersed Cu nanowire electrocatalyst

Feng Yang Chen, Zhen Yu Wu, Srishti Gupta, Daniel J. Rivera, Sten V. Lambeets, Stephanie Pecaut, Jung Yoon Timothy Kim, Peng Zhu, Y. Zou Finfrock, Debora Motta Meira, Graham King, Guanhui Gao, Wenqian Xu, David A. Cullen, Hua Zhou, Yimo Han, Daniel E. Perea, Christopher L. Muhich, Haotian Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


Electrochemically converting nitrate ions, a widely distributed nitrogen source in industrial wastewater and polluted groundwater, into ammonia represents a sustainable route for both wastewater treatment and ammonia generation. However, it is currently hindered by low catalytic activities, especially under low nitrate concentrations. Here we report a high-performance Ru-dispersed Cu nanowire catalyst that delivers an industrial-relevant nitrate reduction current of 1 A cm–2 while maintaining a high NH3 Faradaic efficiency of 93%. More importantly, this high nitrate-reduction catalytic activity enables over a 99% nitrate conversion into ammonia, from an industrial wastewater level of 2,000 ppm to a drinkable water level <50 ppm, while still maintaining an over 90% Faradaic efficiency. Coupling the nitrate reduction effluent stream with an air stripping process, we successfully obtained high purity solid NH4Cl and liquid NH3 solution products, which suggests a practical approach to convert wastewater nitrate into valuable ammonia products. Density functional theory calculations reveal that the highly dispersed Ru atoms provide active nitrate reduction sites and the surrounding Cu sites can suppress the main side reaction, the hydrogen evolution reaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)759-767
Number of pages9
JournalNature nanotechnology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Efficient conversion of low-concentration nitrate sources into ammonia on a Ru-dispersed Cu nanowire electrocatalyst'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this