Photocatalytic Decomposition of Ammonia


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In its recently released 6th assessment report, the International Panel on Climate Change  unequivocally stated that human activity is the primary driver of observed global warming effects over the  past 150 years. Broad alignment with this assertion by the public and private sectors has been the driving  force behind decarbonization efforts and various net-zero emissions goals. To date, decarbonization has  focused on increasing renewable power capacity and electrification of mobility with few solutions provided  for “hard-to-abate” sectors (transport, shipping, aviation, and heavy industry (cement, steel, and chemicals))  that are reliant on inexpensive petrochemicals as fuels / feedstocks and contribute nearly 30% of global  GHG emissions. In addition to supporting 30% of GHG emissions, 5.8% of global CO2eq emissions are  directly attributed to emissions from refining & petrochemical processes; assets with lifetimes measured in  decades and reliant on high throughput / utilization to succeed have made it challenging for the industry to  keep pace with the power sector.

While there is some momentum to decarbonize the feedstocks that form the input for chemical  processes (recycled materials and bio-based inputs), replacing the combustion fuels is proving to be more  difficult to achieve. Industrial electric heating technology is costly, inefficient, and still not mature enough  to provide sufficient temperatures to power production at scale. Simply put, it is cheaper to combust fossil  fuels for heat instead of relying on electricity. To successfully electrify chemical manufacturing, a  completely novel solution is required.

Syzygy Plasmonics, based in Houston TX, is commercializing a novel solution centered around  cutting-edge photocatalytic technology, developed at Rice University, and proprietary light driven reactors  developed by Syzygy. Together, these technologies enable low-cost reactions at a fraction of the  temperature and pressure required by traditional thermal catalysis; reactors no longer need to be fabricated  from high-cost alloys, nor require fossil fuel combustion, reducing both capital and operating costs, as well  as emissions.

This presentation will focus on the application of Syzygy’s novel technology platform to the  decomposition of ammonia which is a critical step in enabling the use of ammonia as a global hydrogen  carrier. Our process enables complete conversion of ammonia using far less energy than conventional  thermal cracking and we are in the process of scaling it up for field trials.