Researchers at QUT have made a groundbreaking discovery in urea production, offering a way to create this essential agricultural fertilizer at room temperature, eliminating the need for the energy-intensive traditional process. Dr. Junxian Liu, the lead author of the study, collaborated with Prof. Yuantong Gu and Assoc. Prof. Liangzhi Kou from the School of Mechanical, Medical, and Process Engineering. Their findings, titled “C–N Coupling Enabled by N–N Bond Breaking for Electrochemical Urea Production,” were published in Advanced Functional Materials.
Dr. Liu emphasized the significance of urea as a vital nitrogen fertilizer, supporting approximately 27% of global crop production. Beyond agriculture, urea serves as a foundational material for various industries, including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and plastics.
The conventional method of synthetic urea production involves high temperatures and pressure in the reaction of ammonia and carbon dioxide. However, Dr. Liu’s team proposed an innovative approach: using a graphene-based catalyst, they enabled a chemical reaction between nitrogen and carbon monoxide to produce urea under ambient conditions, substantially reducing energy requirements compared to the traditional process.
While this breakthrough is currently in the theoretical stage, it holds great promise for sustainable and energy-efficient urea synthesis. Collaboration with other research groups is underway to progress towards practical applications of this transformative technology.