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Ammonia Energy Coming on Like Gangbusters in Australia

NH3FA.Oz, the Australian chapter of the NH3 Fuel Association, held a meeting on August 30 in approximate observance of its one-year anniversary.  John Mott, one of the founders of NH3FA.Oz and a member of the NH3 Fuel Association’s Advisory Board, reported that more than two dozen stakeholders from academia, industry, and the public sector participated.  The meeting came on the heels of the rapid-fire release of three significant reports, and preceded by a week the announcement of an important set of research grants.  The meeting, the reports, and the announcement all made clear that ammonia  is fast becoming a fixture in Australian energy policy.

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Science Publishes Feature Article on Ammonia Energy

On July 13, Science magazine, the flagship publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), published a 2,800-word “feature article" on ammonia energy. The article, headlined, “Liquid sunshine: Ammonia made from sun, air, and water could turn Australia into a renewable energy superpower,” is uniformly open-minded and upbeat.  Its opening section ends with a quote from Monash University Professor of Physics and Chemistry Doug MacFarlane; “’Liquid ammonia is liquid energy,’ he says. ‘It's the sustainable technology we need.’” MacFarlane helped launch the Australian chapter of the NH3 Fuel Association.

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Future Ammonia Technologies: Electrochemical (part 3)

This series of articles on the future of ammonia synthesis began with a report on the NH3 Energy+ conference presentation by Grigorii Soloveichik, Program Director at the US Department of Energy's ARPA-E, who categorized the technologies as being either improvements on Haber-Bosch or electrochemical (with exceptions). ARPA-E invests in "transformational, high-risk, early-stage research," and recently began funding ammonia synthesis technologies, not to make renewable fertilizer but to produce "energy-dense zero-carbon liquid fuel." This article will introduce the six electrochemical technologies currently in development with funding from ARPA-E.

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Future Ammonia Technologies: Electrochemical (part 2)

Last week, in Part 1 of this series on electrochemical ammonia synthesis technologies, I quoted a recent article by researchers at MIT that identified avenues for future research and development. One option was a biomimicry approach, learning from "enzymatic catalysts, such as nitrogenases," which can "either be incorporated into or provide inspiration for the design of electrocatalytic processes." The nitrogenase enzyme, nature's ammonia synthesis technology, was developed in an iterative innovation process, otherwise known as evolution, that took hundreds of millions of years to reach this level of efficiency. According to one group of electrochemists, who presented their results at the recent NH3 Energy+ conference, nitrogenase produces ammonia in nature with an enviable 75% process efficiency - so it's no surprise that they are basing their industrial technology on it.

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Future Ammonia Technologies: Electrochemical (part 1)

Last month's NH3 Energy+ conference featured presentations on a great range of novel ammonia synthesis technologies, including improvements to Haber-Bosch, and plasmas, membranes, and redox cycles. But, in a mark of a conference approaching maturity, members of the audience had at least as much to contribute as the presenters. This was the case for electrochemical synthesis technologies: while the presentations included updates from an influential industry-academia-government collaboration, led by Nel Hydrogen's US subsidiary, the audience members represented, among others, the new electrochemical ammonia synthesis research lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a team from Monash University in Australia. The very next week, Monash published its latest results, reporting an electrochemical process that synthesized ammonia with 60% faradaic efficiency, an unprecedented rate of current conversion at ambient pressure and temperature.

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The Future of Ammonia: Improvement of Haber-Bosch … or Electrochemical Synthesis?

During our NH3 Energy+ Topical Conference, hosted within AIChE's Annual Meeting earlier this month, an entire day of presentations was devoted to new technologies to make industrial ammonia production more sustainable. One speaker perfectly articulated the broad investment drivers, technology trends, and recent R&D achievements in this area: the US Department of Energy's ARPA-E Program Director, Grigorii Soloveichik, who posed this question regarding the future of ammonia production: "Improvement of Haber-Bosch Process or Electrochemical Synthesis?"

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Exploring Peptide-Bound Catalysts for Electrochemical Ammonia Generation

Today, most ammonia (NH3) manufacturing occurs via the Haber-Bosch process. This process consumes hydrogen from fossil fuels, and as a result NH3 contributes the highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions out of the top 18 large-volume chemicals made globally. Because the process is high temperature (400°–500°C) and pressure (150–300 atm) with a low (15%) single-pass conversion efficiency, the plants have to be very large to be economical. This means that ammonia is shipped from centralized locations, further increasing greenhouse gas emissions because of the fuel consumed in transportation. Additionally, their large size makes it difficult to integrate with renewable sources…

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Design of Iron-Nickel Nanocatalysts for Low-Temperature Electrochemical Ammonia Generation

The Haber-Bosch industrial process for ammonia production is the cornerstone of modern commercial-fertilizer-based agriculture. Haber-Bosch ammonia fueled the global population growth of the 20th century, and approximately half of the nitrogen in human bodies today originates from ammonia-based fertilizer produced by the Haber-Bosch process. However, the Haber-Bosch process operates at high temperature and high pressure to achieve high conversion efficiencies, and the hydrogen input comes from steam reforming of coal or natural gas. In addition to the energy costs, the large production of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and the large required economies of scale motivate research efforts to…