Revolutionizing fertilizer production: Green Ammonia’s rise
Researchers at UNSW Sydney, along with their collaborators, have made a significant breakthrough in producing green ammonia, a development with the potential to significantly reduce the carbon footprint associated with fertilizer production. This innovation addresses one of the most carbon-intensive industrial processes and could revolutionize how ammonia is produced for fertilizers.
Traditionally, ammonia production has depended on high-energy processes, operating at temperatures above 400°C and pressures over 200 atmospheres. These methods are responsible for 2% of the world’s energy usage and 1.8% of its CO2 emissions. However, the new technique developed by the UNSW team dramatically enhances energy efficiency and makes the production of environmentally friendly ammonia economically viable. This method eliminates the need for high temperatures, high pressure, and extensive infrastructure traditionally required in ammonia synthesis.
Recently published in the journal Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, the research demonstrates that the process increases the energy efficiency and production rate of green ammonia synthesis, enabling large-scale production. This advancement builds upon earlier proof-of-concept research by the same team, with significant improvements in energy efficiency and production rate, enhancing commercial profitability.
PlasmaLeap Technologies, an Australian industry partner, has licensed the foundational research through the UNSW Knowledge Exchange program. A prototype has already been scaled up and is ready for deployment in the Australian agriculture industry, marking a significant step towards translating this technology into practical use.
The study also highlights the potential of using green ammonia in the hydrogen transport market. Liquid ammonia (NH3) can store more hydrogen in a smaller space compared to liquefied hydrogen (H2), making hydrogen energy transportation more economical.
Dr. Ali Jalili, the study’s lead researcher and a former Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow at UNSW, emphasizes the importance of sustainable ammonia production for global net zero objectives. He points out that the conventional Haber-Bosch process for ammonia production, while instrumental in boosting crop yields and supporting global population growth, contributes significantly to carbon emissions and is only economically viable on a large scale. The transportation from production facilities to farms further increases CO2 emissions by 50%.
Given the critical shortage of ammonia-based fertilizers due to international supply chain disruptions and geopolitical issues, this development is timely. It not only impacts food security and production costs but also plays a key role in Australia’s renewable energy initiatives. Dr. Jalili underscores the necessity of establishing a decentralized and energy-efficient production method that can effectively utilize surplus renewable electricity to fully realize the potential of green ammonia.