Investigation of N2 adsorption on Fe3O4(001) using ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and density functional theory

Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Physics; Department of Chemistry


Reactions on iron oxide surfaces are prevalent in various chemical processes from heterogeneous catalysts to minerals. Nitrogen (N2) is known to dissociate on iron surfaces, a precursor for ammonia production in the Haber–Bosch process, where the dissociation of N2 is the limiting step in the reaction under equilibrium conditions. However, little is known about N2 adsorption on other iron-based materials, such as iron oxide surfaces that are ubiquitous in soils, steel pipelines, and other industrial materials. An atomistic description is reported for the binding of N2 on the Fe3O4(001) surface using first principles calculations with ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Two primary adsorption sites are experimentally identified from N2 dissociation on Fe3O4(001). The electronic signatures associated with the valence band region unambiguously show how the electronic structure of magnetite transforms near ambient pressures due to the binding of atomic nitrogen to different surface sites. Overall, the experimental and theoretical results of our study bridge the gap between ultra-high vacuum studies and reaction conditions to provide insight into other nitrogen-based chemistry on iron oxide surfaces that impact the agriculture and energy industries.

Publication Title

The Journal of chemical physics