Update, September 2021: We have been published!
The research paper, led by Nishithan and Dr. Singh and collaborated on with others at UIC and beyond, was published on September 8 in the academic journal Energy and Environmental Science with the title “Solar-driven electrochemical synthesis of Ammonia using nitrate with 11% solar-to-fuel efficiency at ambient conditions“. This paper gives convincing evidence in support of our claim that we have discovered a highly active and selective catalyst that will enable cost-effective and efficient storage of surplus renewable electricity in the form of liquid Ammonia. It is with this conclusive paper in hand that we will be attending the 2021 TechConnect World Innovation Conference in Washington D.C. between October 18-20 this year; our table will be #149 on both Monday and Tuesday that week. We hope to meet you there!
In the video below, you will see the actual catalytic reaction being driven by solar energy in real time; demonstration begins at 4:10.
We are planning to launch commercial operations by Q3 2022. The reaction can be fed with post-secondary treated municipal wastewater which commonly contains Nitrates that would otherwise be discharged. Utilizing these nitrates to produce Ammonia will not only finish treating the water by removing or reducing the nitrates, but it is a highly energy-efficient reaction which will allow us to store renewable power at an even higher rate than the full-cell reaction. Wastewater containing nitrates is a common issue and a readily available “resource” that we can utilize for an immediately accessible market entry point that we will leverage to accelerate our commercial scale-up. By entering the market in such an energy- and cost-efficient way, we aim to begin the adoption curve of Ammonia fuel and prime the market for the eventual total shift from fossil energy to sustainable energy.
Carbon-free fuels are our future.
Pure Hydrogen (H2) is the best alternative to fossil fuels because it can provide the same energy as fossil fuels without any polluting emissions. Unfortunately, it does not currently have any noteworthy trade infrastructure in place because it is extremely explosive as a gas, and so must be transported as a cryogenic liquid at extremely cold temperatures – which is hugely expensive and generally impracticable.
In direct contrast, Ammonia (NH3) contains a higher density of Hydrogen than even pure liquid Hydrogen, and is currently safely transported in liquid form under modest temperatures and pressures via both pipelines and tanker trucks. Further, Ammonia can be stored for long periods (up to years at a time) without any degradation. After arriving at its final destination anywhere in the world, our liquid sunshine can be “cracked” to release the high-purity Hydrogen stored in Ammonia for on-demand use as a carbon-free fuel at any time, in any place, for any application.
Renewable wind and solar power are inherently intermittent and unreliable, and cannot provide grid stability alone.
We need a carbon-free alternative to fossil fuels that can provide stable, reliable power in all regions at all hours of every day, filling in the gaps that wind and solar simply cannot bridge alone. Battery storage can alleviate some of the intermittency of renewable energies, but no storage technology on the market today can economically meet the large capacity requirements of carbon-free, grid-scale storage.
Additionally, solar and wind power are generally most abundant in regions that are physically distant from where the power is consumed; significant and sustained investment in power grid reinforcement and expansion would be necessary to accommodate such long-distance transmission of these stranded, variable resources from rural areas to urban and industrial centers.
By producing Ammonia from surplus renewable electricity in these rural areas – a liquid fuel that can be sent down the network of pipelines that already exists – we can completely bypass major capital barriers to renewable energy development. Our reactors can be strategically situated to minimize transmission and distribution costs, and maximize the cost-efficient transfer of renewable energy from rural areas of generation to urban areas of consumption. Further, this approach removes the growing need to electrify all processes, as these renewable resources will arrive at their destination in the form of a liquid fuel that can simply be ‘cracked’ and burned to generate heat for industrial processes and other applications. As well as using fuel cells to efficiently convert the Ammonia back to electricity, this means that our single fuel can safely power every energy-requiring activity on Earth – something no other renewable technology can boast.
Our approach minimizes the process changes that are required for total global decarbonization, and solves the biggest problems facing intermittent renewable energy. Ammonia will finally enable a clean and sustainable Hydrogen-based economy worldwide.
Ammonia is a stable vector for sustainable, carbon-free energy to power our society without lasting ecological damage.
While Ammonia is already a heavily traded commodity, the Ammonia used today is produced by an expensive and energy intensive process – the Haber-Bosch Process – which consumes large amounts of fossil fuels, and accounts for up to 2 percent of the world’s current greenhouse gas emissions. Our novel electrocatalytic process will synthesize Ammonia from ambient air, water, and renewable electricity, and release exactly zero GHG emissions. It can also synthesize Ammonia from partially-treated waste water, which is a highly-efficient market entry point to initiate the adoption curve of Ammonia fuel by providing a reliable supply, and to generate an initial revenue stream to support the organic scaling up of our commercial operations.
Our liquid sunshine will be produced much more efficiently than traditional methods; additionally, it will be produced much closer to areas of intense wind or sunshine rather than only where a very expensive refinery is constructed. This means that the price of Ammonia will not only undercut market prices for fossil-sourced ‘brown’ Ammonia, but that it will compete directly with traditional fossil fuels, without subsidy.
Compare this to Lithium-ion storage for example, which functions best over just a few hours, or days at the most. Whenever this stored energy is needed, our Ammonia can be converted on-demand using established fuel-cell technology to provide pollution-free energy to electric grids, automobiles, maritime shipping, air travel, and anything else that currently relies on fossil energy. Our liquid sunshine is a safe and cost-effective commodity that will finally enable the global, emissions-free Hydrogen economy that has been pursued for so long.