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The Case for Giving Direct Ammonia Fuels Cells a Shot

The Center for Catalytic Science and Technology (CCST) at the University of Delaware has made new strides in the development of a direct ammonia fuel cell (DAFC) suitable for use in transportation applications.  The progress is reported in “An Efficient Direct Ammonia Fuel Cell for Affordable Carbon-Neutral Transportation,” a paper published last month by Yun Zhao and six coauthors in the journal Joule.  The paper gives an impressive account of CCST’s technical advances; and it makes a distinctly compelling case for the relevance of CCST’s work on DAFCs.  In the latter regard, the authors find that ammonia has the “lowest source-to-tank energy cost by a significant margin” relative to other fuels that can be derived from renewably generated electricity.  It is in society’s interest, they strongly imply, to give DAFC technology a chance to compete with hydrogen-based fuel cells in automotive applications.

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GenCell A5 update: hydrogen power from ammonia fuel cells (“The Next Big Thing in Energy Production”)

GenCell Energy, an Israeli technology company, recently announced a research collaboration with Fraunhofer UMSICHT, a German research institute, that will deliver a "scale-up of the catalyst synthesis process" for cracking ammonia. This will enable GenCell "to produce large quantities of a novel inexpensive catalyst for generation of hydrogen from ammonia."

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AFC Energy Completes Ammonia-to-Power Trials

AFC Energy PLC, the British fuel cell company, announced on May 20 the successful conclusion of “ammonia to power (‘A2P’) fuel cell generator trials.”  The result is “proof of concept” for a system consisting of an "off the shelf" ammonia cracker and a proprietary alkaline fuel cell that can readily utilize hydrogen with residual quantities of uncracked ammonia.  The achievement positions AFC “to conclude work on the business case and engineering of an integrated, scalable ammonia fuelled clean power generator.”

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New Video Summarizes SIP Energy Carriers Accomplishments

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Japanese Government’s Cabinet Office and the Japan Science and Technology Agency have released an English-language video that summarizes the accomplishments of the Cross-Ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program’s Energy Carriers initiative.  The release coincides with the end-of-March conclusion of Energy Carriers’ work, and anticipates this month’s formal activation of the Green Ammonia Consortium.

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Literature review: Electrochemical Ammonia Synthesis and Ammonia Fuel Cells

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."

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SMARTCATS Workshop: Ammonia for Fueling Future Energy

ANNOUNCEMENT: SMARTCATS, an Action within Europe’s “intergovernmental framework” for Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST), has this week published the list of keynote speakers for its Ammonia for Fueling Future Energy Workshop, which will be held on April 13 and 14 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Speakers will include John Bøgild Hansen, Senior Scientist at Haldor Topsoe and member of the Ammonia Energy Association (AEA) Board of Directors; Bill David, University of Oxford Professor and member of the AEA Advisory Board; and myself in my role as AEA President.

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Rapid Long-Term Growth Projected for Fuel Cells

Last month the Fuji-Keizai Group released its latest biennial review of the global market for fuel cells, “Future Outlook for Fuel Cell-Related Technology and Market in 2018.”  This is at least the third iteration of the report, and comparison across the different editions shows how expectations have evolved.  The report features both polymer electrolyte and solid oxide fuel cells.  Although not mentioned in the report, a number of groups are working on direct ammonia versions of both technologies.

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More Progress for Automotive-Oriented Direct Ammonia Fuel Cells

Shimshon Gottesfeld’s paper The Direct Ammonia Fuel Cell and a Common Pattern of Electrocatalytic Processes leads with a big number: “A record power density of 450 mW/cm2 has been demonstrated for a direct ammonia fuel cell [DAFC] using an alkaline membrane electrolyte.”  We know it’s big because it’s 80% higher than the 250 mW/cm2 that Gottesfeld’s team had achieved in the fall of 2017 and that Gottesfeld, Adjunct Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware, reported at the November 2017 NH3 Energy+ Topical Conference.

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Ammonia for Fuel Cells: AFC, SOFC, and PEM

In the last 12 months ...
IHI Corporation tested its 1 kW ammonia-fueled solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) in Japan; Project Alkammonia concluded its work on cracked-ammonia-fed alkaline fuel cells (AFC) in the EU; the University of Delaware's project for low-temperature direct ammonia fuel cells (DAFC) continues with funding from the US Department of Energy's ARPA-E; and, in Israel, GenCell launched its commercial 4 kW ammonia-fed AFC with field demonstrations at up to 800 locations across Kenya.

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Ammonia for Power: a literature review

"Ammonia for Power" is an open-access literature review that includes over 300 citations for recent and ongoing research in the use of ammonia in engines, fuel cells, and turbines, as well as providing references to decades of historical case studies and publications. The review, written by a consortium of ammonia energy experts from the University of Cardiff, University of Oxford, the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council, and Tsinghua University in China, can be found in the November 2018 edition of Progress in Energy and Combustion Science.

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