Industry and manufacturing represent the biggest slice of the global greenhouse gas emissions pie. That’s why the Breakthrough Energy Fellows Programme supports innovations aimed at reducing the emissions of the ‘hard industries’ – the making of steel, cement and fertiliser.
Founded by Bill Gates, Breakthrough Energy looks to support the development and adoption of new clean technologies that can help the world achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Associate Professor Franck Natali from the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington has been given one of the inaugural fellowships so that he and his team can develop his work to reduce the energy cost of ammonia production.
Ammonia is a gas (NH3) which is a vital component in making nitrogen fertilisers. However, its production is incredibly carbon intensive. It can only be formed under conditions of high temperature and pressure, which means a lot of energy. Plus, the hydrogen component is currently typically sourced from natural gas, in a process that releases carbon dioxide.
Franck and his team have used materials science to develop a catalyst that can achieve this reaction at ‘milder’ conditions – instead of needing 500oC, they can produce ammonia at 100oC. They have been able to do this at the gram scale in the lab, now they need to work on upscaling it to make sure it can be commercially viable and attractive for ammonia production plants to want to switch to.
March 24, 2022