Microwave-Plasma Ammonia Synthesis

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Morgantown, West Virginia
Project Term:
04/01/2017 - 03/31/2023

Technology Description:

West Virginia University Research Corporation (WVURC) will develop a process to convert renewable electricity, water, and air into ammonia using plasma excitation at low temperatures and pressures. This process is different from both electrochemical conversion processes and catalytic processes like the HB process. In this form of physical activation, the microwave-plasma process can activate nitrogen and hydrogen, generating ions and free radicals that react over the catalyst surface to form ammonia. Under the correct conditions, microwave heating can selectively heat the catalyst to the temperature required for reactions without heating the surrounding area. This combination of a very hot catalyst and cool surroundings leads to overall lower reaction temperatures and improved energy efficiency. The lower pressure required for the process will also simplify the design. Both features enable better integration with renewable energy sources because the system can be turned on and off more quickly. Such advantages increase the cost competitiveness of the team’s approach.

Potential Impact:

If successful, developments from REFUEL projects will enable energy generated from domestic, renewable resources to increase fuel diversity in the transportation sector in a cost-effective and efficient way.


The U.S. transportation sector is heavily dependent on petroleum for its energy. Increasing the diversity of energy-dense liquid fuels would bolster energy security and help reduce energy imports.


Liquid fuels created using energy from renewable resources are carbon-neutral, helping reduce transportation sector emissions.


Fuel diversity reduces exposure to price volatility. By storing energy in hydrogen-rich liquid fuels instead of pure hydrogen in liquid or gaseous form, transportation costs can be greatly reduced, helping make CNLFs cost-competitive with traditional fuels.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Douglas Wicks
Project Contact:
Dr. Jianli (John) Hu
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


National Energy Technology Laboratory
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Florida State University

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