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Hybrid catalyst produces critical fertilizer and cleans wastewater

September 11, 2023

Agriculture relies on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, which is made using energy- and carbon-intensive processes and creates nitrate-containing runoff. Researchers have long sought solutions to reduce emissions from the industry that accounts for 3% of energy consumption each year.

A collaboration between two labs at Northwestern University, partnering with the University of Toronto, has found that producing the fertilizer urea using electrified synthesis could both denitrify wastewater while enabling low-carbon-intensity urea production. The process, which includes converting carbon dioxide and waste nitrogen by using a hybrid catalyst made of zinc and copper, could benefit water treatment facilities by reducing their carbon footprint and supplying a potential revenue stream.

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