Electrochemical Ammonia Synthesis with a Nitride Ion Conducting Electrolyte
Fossil fuels used in U.S. transportation account for approximately 30% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Ammonia (NH3) has potential as an alternative carbon-neutral liquid transportation fuel , but would require distributed and modular synthesis to match the renewable electricity supply that produces and converts the hydrogen. Traditional Haber-Bosch NH3 production requires operating conditions that are incompatible with these modularity and intermittency needs. A low-pressure, modular electrochemical NH3 system could leverage intermittent renewable electricity to reduce the carbon footprint for production of this critical chemical, produce NH3 closer to the point-of-use, and enable NH3 as a carbon neutral transportation fuel and also as energy storage for stationary appplications.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
The Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) will develop an electrochemical ammonia generator capable of using intermittent energy delivered by renewable sources. The team will build an electrochemical device based on a solid-state electrolyte that converts nitrogen from the air and hydrogen to ammonia in a single step at temperatures and pressures far lower than today’s dominant ammonia production technology, the Haber-Bosch process. The system will be modular and readily scalable, decoupling production cost from scale and allowing it to produce ammonia for diverse customers, from industry to farms and beyond.
If successful, the proposed technology could enable distributed ammonia production for alternative fuels and agricultural use, decrease energy input by more than 20%, and substantially simplify the Haber-Bosch process.
Additional capacity for NH3 production would decrease the U.S. dependence on NH3 imports, which were 30% in 2016.
Carbon-neutral NH3 produced from renewables would decrease CO2 emissions by ~40 metric tons per year (equivalent to energy savings of ~ 0.4 quads or 117,228,433,333 kWh per year).
Significant U.S. production of NH3 would enable onshoring of fertilizer production and transport fuel.