Abstract: The catalytic chemistry of nitrogen is inextricably linked with mankind?s use of energy. Largescale nitrogen fixation (N2 ? NH3) revolutionized the production of fertilizer, enabled the population explosion of the 20th century, and now accounts for several percent of the world?s annual energy consumption. NOx reduction (NOx ? N2) is integral to reducing the adverse impacts of transportation on urban air quality and health. These and other technologies all depend at their heart on heterogeneous catalysis. In this presentation I will discuss the insights gained by applying molecular-level models and concepts to nitrogen catalytic chemistry. Examples will be drawn from our work on the selective catalytic reduction of NOx in Cu-exchanged zeolites, a problem that has led us to rethink the factors that govern reactivity in zeolites, from NO and NH3 oxidation, problems that have caused us to revisit how we model reactions at metal surfaces, and from N2 oxidation, where we are exploring the potential to bypass the constraints presented by common catalysts by combining with a non-thermal plasma.
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