254th ACS Meeting, Energy and Fuels Symposium “The Ammonia Economy” — Oxidation, Catalytic Cracking & Storage

A guest editorial by Martin Owen Jones, Science and Technology Facilities Council, UK.

In August of 2017 a symposium on the Ammonia Economy was held in Washington DC as part of the Energy and Fuels Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS) conference. The symposium was devised to explore the latest results from ammonia related research, including but not limited to; advances in the generation of ammonia, advances in the catalytic cracking of ammonia to nitrogen and hydrogen, ammonia storage and utilisation, detectors and sensors for ammonia, ammonia fuel cells and hydrogen from ammonia, ammonia combustion and ammonia safety.

The Ammonia Economy symposium was first held at the 250th ACS meeting in Boston in 2015 and subsequently at the 252nd ACS meeting in Philadelphia in 2016. Originally the brainchild of Professors Martin Owen Jones and Bill David, the meeting was conceived as a way to more widely disseminate the challenges and opportunities of research in the ammonia economy as well as bringing together a critical mass of scientists with common interests and goals to further developments within the field. Jones and David’s interests lie principally in the use, storage and characterisation of ammonia and ammine materials. Consequently, in 2017, the symposium organisation was enlarged to include Michael Mock from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to encourage the participation of scientists interested in ammonia synthesis, a significant and growing area of ammonia research. The meeting is also used to introduce early career researchers and this year the presiding organisers were two young researchers from the UK, Dr Josh Makepeace (Oxford University) and Dr Tom Wood (Science and Technology Facilities Council, STFC). 

August 2017 therefore saw the third ACS Ammonia Economy meeting and featured lectures from researchers in the fields of ammonia synthesis, storage, detection, cracking, combustion, and the wider ammonia economy.

This year, the morning session was dedicated to talks on the characterisation of ammonia and ammines, ammonia cracking and ammonia combustion. Professor Kojima, from Hiroshima University, gave the opening presentation on high purity hydrogen generation from ammonia, highlighting the role ammonia may play in a future hydrogen economy as an energy vector. 

Two talks then discussed novel methods for ammonia cracking, starting with the use of the recently discovered group I and group II amide and imide catalysts, by Josh Makepeace from Oxford University, which highlighted the opportunities and challenges of using these materials as cheap and efficient ammonia cracking catalysts. 

The use of electrocatalysts in fuel cell devices was presented by Timothy Warren from Georgetown University, identifying the role molecular catalysts could play in the utilisation of ammonia as a fuel source. Speaking after the symposium, Professor Warren explained that he had become interested in ammonia catalysts after attending the first ACS Ammonia Economy symposium in Boston in 2015.

Dr. Phuong-Vu Ong from PNNL presented work using ab initio simulations in the study of the thermodynamic stability of Ca(NH2)2 surfaces in different crystallographic orientations and interactions of small Ru clusters and flat nanoparticles with the amide support.

Presentations on the characterization of ammonia and ammine materials were then given by Tom Wood and Professor Martin Owen Jones (both STFC). Dr Wood showed how mass spectroscopy could be used to identify and characterise mechanism in ammonia cracking and Professor Jones highlighted the strength of combined dielectric and neutron scattering experiments for ammine material characterisation. Dr Karkamkar (PNNL) also spoke about ammine materials, highlighting their potential use for NOx reduction in exhaust streams and his recent work to identify new materials with the appropriate set of functional properties.

Finally, in the afternoon session, the topic of ammonia combustion was tackled by Professor Akihiro from Tohoku University who reported on flame stabilization mechanisms in high-speed swirling flows.

The 4th Ammonia Economy Symposium will be held at the 256th ACS National Meeting in Boston, August 19th to 23rd 2018. If you are interested in attending, full details will be found at the ACS website, or you can contact Martin Jones directly.

A guest editorial by Martin Owen Jones, Science and Technology Facilities Council, UK.