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How would you explain this in general terms (high school level) and in a way that non-chemists would think it is exciting?

Ammonia, NH3, is an essential molecule, being part of fertilizers. It is currently synthesized via the Haber–Bosch process, from the very stable dinitrogen molecule, N2 and dihydrogen, H2. This process requires high temperatures and pressures, thereby generating ca 1.6 % of the global CO2 emissions. Alternative strategies are needed to realize the functionalization of N2 to NH3 under mild conditions. Here, we show that boron-centered radicals provide a means of activating N2 at room temperature and atmospheric pressure whilst allowing a radical process to occur, leading to the production of borylamines. Subsequent hydrolysis released NH4+, the acidic form of NH3. EPR spectroscopy supported the intermediacy of radicals in the process, corroborated by DFT calculations, which rationalized the mechanism of the N2 functionalization by R2B radicals.



Ammonia is a chemical compound made up of three hydrogen atoms and one nitrogen atom (NH3). It is an important molecule that is used in fertilizers. Right now, we produce ammonia through a process called the Haber-Bosch process. This process involves combining two other chemicals, nitrogen and hydrogen, together at high temperatures and pressures. But this process has a downside, it produces a significant amount of carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

Scientists are looking for new ways to make ammonia that are better for the environment. In this recent study, scientists found a new way to make ammonia using a chemical called boron. They found that by using boron, they could make ammonia at room temperature and normal pressure, which is much better for the environment. They also used special tools to study the process and figure out how it works. This new way of making ammonia could be a big step forward in making fertilizers in a way that is better for the environment.

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The text in the question is the abstract of the Angewandte paper:

Soukaina Bennaamane, Barbara Rialland, Lhoussain Khrouz, Marie Fustier-Boutignon, Christophe Bucher, Eric Clot, Nicolas Mézailles, Ammonia Synthesis at Room Temperature and Atmospheric Pressure from N2: A Boron-Radical Approach, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2022.

on which the summary Mild Ammonia Synthesis was recently published in ChemistryViews.



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