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Researchers Find Method of Making Ammonia a More Affordable Hydrogen Storage


Sometimes quoted as the main component of a new and good hydrogen storage material, ammonia (NH3) could this time rival hydrogen in the race to fuel our vehicles – it could just be The solution to the fuel crisis. Since hydrogen is hard to transport and store, ammonia fills in that niche and makes up for a perfect fuel.

Although it’s highly toxic if swollen or inhaled, when burned, ammonia produces only nitrogen and water vapor, so it’s not harmful for the environment in any way (most of the air we breathe is nitrogen).

Two researchers from the Texas Tech University, Fleming and Tim Maxwell, have started building a system that could produce ammonia in gas stations and that’s no bigger than the size of a truck.

They used the Haber-Bosch process as their basis (through which ammonia is produced industrially), and slightly adapted it for being suited to mobile applications.

In their system, a piston rapidly compresses hydrogen and nitrogen, heating the gases to 400 °C. The mixture is fed into a chamber containing an iron oxide catalyst, which sparks a reaction that further heats the gases and generates ammonia. In a third chamber, the mixture decompresses and cools down to room temperature. As it does so, it pushes against another piston, from which mechanical energy is recovered and fed back to the compressor, significantly cutting the process’s power consumption.

Finally, a heat pump cools the mixture down to around -75 °C, liquefying the ammonia for collection.

Cars that already run on a gasoline-ethanol blend (the so-called “flex-fuel” vehicles) could be easily retrofitted to run on a blend of gasoline and ammonia. The researchers are already studying an engine called “the free piston engine” (we wrote an article on it back in 2008  – see the link) that could be made to run exclusively on ammonia, with no gasoline involved whatsoever.

The scientists say their method of making the ammonia fuel could bring the cost of production down to 20 cents/liter.

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  1. Ah…the ever debating and over whelming desire to have it all for free. Sorry but you have to give inorder to receive. Energy is no different in the relationship of changing forms. All those pesky rules of thermodynamics just get in the way. Sometimes I wish those who want it all for free and overnite would just put down their smart phone and go live in a teepee or cave for six months and then come back and bash those whoe are looking for alternatives. Hydrogen is one of the best energy carriers out there and all fuels to date pretty much are based upon it. Problem is it’s expensive, hard to compress, harder to store and the worlds not ready to use it. Kinda like compareing apples to greatfruit both are fruit but totally different. It’s easy to bash any new idea because it doesn’t fit your preconceived notion of what it should be to solve your problem. Think about it this way any step in the right direction is progress, the status quo ultimately deals a negative and reversing compounds the problem worse than before so…..be a positive force toward solving problems. My 2 cents.

  2. oh great, another source for a noxious chemical to spill all over the place, plus waste energy creating it.

    also, is the carbon foot print to support the process acceptable? who builds all that machinery, trucks it around, maintains it and cleans up after it? also, with all that factored in, is the output over unity enough to be worth the risks?

    but why bother with this process? there a several methods coming down the research pipelines for storing hydrogen itself in various structured tanks.

    and of course there’s always HOD, hydrogen on demand. why store hydrogen at all when you can make it as you need it? survey the catalytic, sonic and other methods in this site, if you doubt that can work.


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