New eco-friendly way to make ammonia could be boon for agriculture, hydrogen economy


Ammonia has sustained humanity since the early 20th century, but its production leaves a huge carbon footprint. Now researchers have found a way to make it 100 percent renewable.

Chemical engineers at UNSW Sydney and University of Sydney have found a way to make 'green' ammonia from air, water and renewable electricity that does not require the high temperatures, high pressure and huge infrastructure currently needed to produce this essential compound.

And the new production method—demonstrated in a laboratory-based proof of concept—also has the potential to play a role in the global transition towards a hydrogen economy, where ammonia is increasingly seen as a solution to the problem of storing and transporting hydrogen energy.

In a paper published today in Energy and Environmental Science, the authors from UNSW and University of Sydney say that ammonia synthesis was one of the critical achievements of the 20th century. When used in fertilizers that quadrupled the output of food crops, it enabled agriculture to sustain an ever-expanding global population.

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