Computational screening of single atoms anchored on defective Mo2CO2 MXene nanosheet as efficient electrocatalysts for the synthesis of ammonia

Shuo Wang, Lei Li, Kwan San Hui, Feng Bin, Wei Zhou, Xi Fan, E. Zalnezhad, Jing Li, Kwun Nam Hui

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The electrochemical nitrogen reduction reaction (NRR) over single-atom catalysts (SACs) anchored on Mo vacancies of Mo 2CO 2 MXene nanosheets under ambient conditions suffers from poor selectivity, low yield, and low Faradaic efficiency because of their sluggish kinetics and the competing hydrogen evolution reaction. Herein, density functional theory calculations are performed to improve the understanding of the selectivity and yielding of ammonia through NRR over various isolated SACs, that is, from Sc to Au, anchored on the Mo vacancy of the Mo 2CO 2 MXene nanosheet (denoted as MO 2CO 2-M SA). The potential-determining step of the NRR shows that eight candidates (i.e., Y, Zr, Nb, Hf, Ta, W, Re, and Os) confined on the defective Mo 2CO 2 layer could promote the electroreduction from N 2 to NH 3. Among these, Mo 2CO 2-Y SA presented the lowest reported reaction Presents the lowest reported reaction energy barrier (0.08 eV) through the distal pathway and high selectivity to NRR compared with the previously synthesized Mo 2CO 2-Ru SA with a relatively high energy barrier (0.65 eV) and poor selectivity. In addition, the formation energy of Mo 2CO 2-Y SA is more negative than that of the Mo 2CO 2-Ru SA catalyst, suggesting that the experimental preparation of the Mo 2CO 2-Y SA catalyst is highly feasible. This work lays a solid foundation for improving the rational design of MXene-based systems as efficient electrocatalysts for the synthesis of ammonia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2100405
JournalAdvanced Engineering Materials
Issue number10
Early online date1 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • MXene
  • density functional theory calculations
  • electrocatalysis
  • nitrogen reduction reaction
  • single-atom catalysts

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