Photoreduction of Nitrogen on TiO2 and TiO2-Containing Minerals

  • Gerhard N. Schrauzer
Part of the Green Energy and Technology book series (GREEN)


A report appearing in 1975 demonstrated that incompletely out-gassed, powdered titanium dioxide photo-reduces acetylene to ethylene and prompted attempts to achieve the photoreduction of molecular nitrogen under similar conditions. Whereas pure, powdered anatase was only slightly active, a substantial enhancement of its photocatalytic activity was achieved by impregnating it with a small percentage of iron, causing its partial conversion to rutile by a heat-treatment at 1000°C. After humidification, this TiO2 substratum, on exposure to light in an argon atmosphere, exhibited activity in the water-splitting reaction and yielded NH3 in the presence of molecular nitrogen. Subsequent studies demonstrated that this N2 photoreduction occurs in a stepwise fashion via diazene and hydrazine as the intermediates. These reactions were shown to take place under simulated terrestrial conditions on the surface of rutile-containing minerals on exposure to sunlight. Evidence for the secondary photoxidation of NH3 on rutile-containing minerals was also obtained. In view of the wide distribution of titanium minerals on the Earth’s crust, these abiological, light-driven reactions contribute to the nitrogen ecology in semiarid regions of the Earth and have been suggested to occur on the surface of Mars.


Photocatalytic Activity Thermal Pretreatment Desert Sand Rutile Crystal Titanyl Sulfate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author wishes to express his thanks to T. D. Guth, Liu Nan Hui, J. Palmer, M. R. Palmer, J. Salehi and N. Strampach for their dedicated collaboration. Support of this research by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is gratefully acknowledged.


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© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and BiochemistryUniversity of California San Diego, Revelle CollegeLa JollaUSA

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