Non-Equilibrium Plasma for Energy-Efficient Nitrogen Fixation

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Special Projects
Project Term:
07/19/2021 - 01/18/2023

Critical Need:

This topic seeks to support entrepreneurial energy discoveries, by identifying and supporting disruptive concepts in energy-related technologies within small businesses and collaborations with universities and national labs. These projects have the potential for large-scale impact, and if successful could create new paradigms in energy technology with the potential to achieve significant reductions in U.S. energy consumption, energy-related imports, or energy-related emissions. These specific projects address technology areas across ARPA-E’s mission spaces, with particular focus on: Advanced bioreactors; Approaches and tools to create enhanced geothermal systems; Non-evaporative dehydration and drying technologies; Approaches to significantly enhance the rate and/or potential scale of carbon mineralization; Separation of CO2 from ambient air (direct air capture); High-rate separation of dissolved inorganic carbon from the ocean to produce a CO2 stream; Advanced trees and other engineered biological systems for carbon sequestration; Innovative deep ocean collector designs for mining polymetallic nodules; Environmental sensors capable of operation in deep ocean environments for mining polymetallic nodules; and Non-carbothermic smelting technologies. Awards under this topic are working to support research and establish potential new areas for technology development, while providing ARPA-E with information that could lead to new focused funding programs. The focus of these projects is to support exploratory research to establish viability, proof-of-concept demonstration for new energy technology, and/or modeling and simulation efforts to guide development for new energy technologies.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Nitricity Inc. is developing a non-thermal plasma reactor that uses air, water, and renewable electricity to produce nitrogen fertilizer. If successful, this technology has the potential to economically decarbonize fertilizer production from the Haber-Bosch process, which produces more CO2 than any other chemical-making reaction. Literature and modeling analysis suggest that an energy efficiency ten times better than present plasma values and equal to or better than that of the conventional Haber-Bosch process could be achieved, which represents a $68B global market and gigaton CO2 equivalent per year mitigation opportunity.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. David Babson
Project Contact:
Dr. Joshua McEnaney
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