Minimum conditions for accurate modeling of urea production via co-electrolysis

Commun Chem. 2023 Sep 13;6(1):196. doi: 10.1038/s42004-023-00990-7.


Co-electrolysis of carbon oxides and nitrogen oxides promise to simultaneously help restore the balance of the C and N cycles while producing valuable chemicals such as urea. However, co-electrolysis processes are still largely inefficient and numerous knowledge voids persist. Here, we provide a solid thermodynamic basis for modelling urea production via co-electrolysis. First, we determine the energetics of aqueous urea produced under electrochemical conditions based on experimental data, which enables an accurate assessment of equilibrium potentials and overpotentials. Next, we use density functional theory (DFT) calculations to model various co-electrolysis reactions producing urea. The calculated reaction free energies deviate significantly from experimental values for well-known GGA, meta-GGA and hybrid functionals. These deviations stem from errors in the DFT-calculated energies of molecular reactants and products. In particular, the error for urea is approximately -0.25 ± 0.10 eV. Finally, we show that all these errors introduce large inconsistencies in the calculated free-energy diagrams of urea production via co-electrolysis, such that gas-phase corrections are strongly advised.

PMID:37704802 | PMC:PMC10499819 | DOI:10.1038/s42004-023-00990-7


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