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A non-metal system for nitrogen fixation


In all nitrogen-fixation processes known so far — including the industrial Haber–Bosch process1, biological fixation by nitrogenase enzymes2 and previously described homogeneous synthetic systems3,4,5 — the direct transformation of the stable, inert dinitrogen molecule (N2) into ammonia (NH3) relies on the powerful redox properties of metals. Here we show that nitrogen fixation can also be achieved by using a non-metallic buckminsterfullerene (C60) molecule, in the form of a water-soluble C60:γ-cyclodextrin (1:2) complex6, and light under nitrogen at atmospheric pressure. This metal-free system efficiently fixes nitrogen under mild conditions by making use of the redox properties of the fullerene derivative.

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Figure 1: Preparation of γ-cyclodextrin–bicapped C60 complex (1), which is used in the fixation of nitrogen to ammonia.


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Correspondence to Sakae Uemura.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Nishibayashi, Y., Saito, M., Uemura, S. et al. A non-metal system for nitrogen fixation. Nature 428, 279–280 (2004).

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