This month, researchers at the University of Minnesota began successful field tests of their new ammonia engine, operating a heavy-duty tractor across farmland near Morris, MN, on a dual-fuel blend of 70% diesel and 30% ammonia.
NEWS BRIEF: The industrial process for ammonia production is increasingly being recognized as a target for decarbonization - by researchers, investors, regulators, and the producers themselves. Demonstrating this shift in awareness, Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN), one of the flagship publications of the American Chemical Society (ACS), this week published an in-depth review of global research and development efforts and demonstration plants for sustainable ammonia synthesis. Its review is all-encompassing, from near-term feasible renewable Haber-Bosch plants, to long-term research areas of electrochemistry, photocatalysis, and bioengineering.
NEWS BRIEF: A paper published this week in Nature addresses the challenge of accurately reporting synthesis rates for electrochemical ammonia production technologies. According to the authors, from Stanford University, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), and Imperial College London, it is not always clear if new technologies really synthesize ammonia, or if the researchers simply measured contaminants. This is because, at experimental scale, materially significant amounts of ammonia (or other nitrogen-containing molecules) could be present in the air, membranes, catalysts, or simply the researchers' breath. To support the development of viable electrochemical ammonia synthesis technologies, the authors propose "benchmarking protocols," and "a standardized set of control experiments."
NEWS BRIEF: The National Science Foundation has awarded $452,000 to researchers at Binghamton University to develop a technology that can generate power from sweat, fueling "one of the ultimate forms of next-generation electronics." The project aims to harness ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, using microbial fuel cells, to power wearable electronics.
NEWS BRIEF: On Monday, May 13, the US Department of Energy ARPA-E will close its request for information (RFI) regarding Quantification of Effectiveness of Nutrient Bioextraction by Seaweed.
By using environmental remediation (nitrogen removal) as a mechanism for ammonia production (nitrogen recycling), this novel research area could connect together two phases of industry: production and end-of-life management. Rather than saying that this addresses both ends of a value chain, it might be more appropriate to say that this holds promise for the circular economy of ammonia energy.
ANNOUNCEMENT: The US Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) has published a Request For Information (RFI) focused on supporting scale-up demonstrations of ARPA-E technologies. Unlike normal ARPA-E funding agreements, which typically provide 5%-20% of the financing for bench-scale projects within laboratories, this RFI is geared towards industrial pilot projects, for which ARPA-E would provide "at least 50% cost share."
The journal Advanced Materials recently published an article that reviews electrochemical ammonia technologies for both synthesis and power generation. In addition to presenting a range of technologies under development, the authors, based at the University of Delaware, present "perspectives in the technical challenges and possible remedies."
ANNOUNCEMENT: California's Stanford University held a two-day workshop this week to launch a new effort aimed at advancing hydrogen “for stable, long-term, low-carbon energy storage.” The Stanford Hydrogen Focus Group intends to support research, serve as a technical resource, and disseminate information via workshops and symposia.
Last month the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) released Renewable Ammonia Generation, Transport, and Utilization in the Transportation Sector, the organization’s first public treatment of ammonia energy. The report is positioned as a communique from the cutting edge – a “Technology Insights Brief” from EPRI’s “Innovation Scouts” – and, bracingly, manages to be both brief and comprehensive. Within its format, it does an excellent job of conveying the positive case for ammonia energy and the R&D that will allow it to reach its potential.
Using greener feedstocks at low pressures and temperatures, with higher conversion rates and less greenhouse gases is considered a pipe dream. The technology and equipment simply wasn’t available ... until now. The case for small-scale, energy efficient ammonia production is well documented, but access to funds may not be. Now, Manufacturing USA and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership may offer a new path to success.