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Dinitrogen Cleavage and Hydrogenation by a Trinuclear Titanium Polyhydride Complex

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Science  28 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6140, pp. 1549-1552
DOI: 10.1126/science.1238663

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Titanium Cleaver

A century after its discovery, the Haber Bosch process is still used to produce ammonia from nitrogen for fertilizer. Nonetheless, the process requires high temperature and pressure, and chemists continue to look for synthetic analogs to microbial nitrogenase enzymes, which have managed to slice through the N2 triple bond under ambient conditions for millennia. Most efforts in this vein have relied on a boost from the reducing power of alkali metals. Shima et al. (p. 1549; see the Perspective by Fryzuk) instead explored the reactivity of a titanium hydride cluster, which cleanly slices through N2 at room temperature and incorporates the separated N atoms into its framework. Though ammonia was not produced, the system offers hope in the search for mild nitrogen reduction catalysts.