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The University of Southampton

Research project: Hector: Catalysis with metal nitrides

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Under EPSRC project EP/J019208/1 we are working with Dr Justin Hargreaves’ team, at the University of Glasgow to produce nanostructured and nanocomposite metal nitride catalysts.

We developed a new citrate gel route to ternary metal nitrides that we have applied in the synthesis of filled β–manganese type compounds of the form (Ni,Co)2Mo3N. These have good ammonia synthesis activity, which appears to be related to exchangeable lattice nitrogen, and the synthesis route is applicable to a wide variety of other compositions.

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Our main focus is the incorporation of metals into high surface area silicon nitride, either to provide single sites or small metal nitride nanoparticles. For this we are using non-oxide sol-gel routes that we previously developed for high surface area silicon nitride aerogels, and adjusting conditions to allow metal incorporation. We have also worked extensively on optimisation of the synthesis conditions to minimise the oxygen concentration of the silicon nitride and to understand and control both its microstructure and its local structure prior to crystallisation, which closely resembles the crystalline phase at short length scales even in samples prepared at 200 °C (Figure).

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