ACS Catal. 2022 May 20;12(10):5726-5735. doi: 10.1021/acscatal.2c00888. Epub 2022 Apr 28.
The nitrogen reduction reaction (NRR) is a promising pathway toward the decarbonization of ammonia (NH3) production. However, unless practical challenges related to the detection of NH3 are removed, confidence in published data and experimental throughput will remain low for experiments in aqueous electrolyte. In this perspective, we analyze these challenges from a system and instrumentation perspective. Through our analysis we show that detection challenges can be strongly reduced by switching from an H-cell to a gas diffusion electrode (GDE) cell design as a catalyst testing platform. Specifically, a GDE cell design is anticipated to allow for a reduction in the cost of crucial 15N2 control experiments from €100-2000 to less than €10. A major driver is the possibility to reduce the 15N2 flow rate to less than 1 mL/min, which is prohibited by an inevitable drop in mass-transport at low flow rates in H-cells. Higher active surface areas and improved mass transport can further circumvent losses of NRR selectivity to competing reactions. Additionally, obstacles often encountered when trying to transfer activity and selectivity data recorded at low current density in H-cells to commercial device level can be avoided by testing catalysts under conditions close to those in commercial devices from the start.