Green ammonia poised to revolutionise multiple industriesMonash University has exclusively licensed a new green ammonia technology to start-up J...Green ammonia poised to revolutionise multiple industries
Monash University has exclusively licensed a new green ammonia technology to start-up Jupiter Ionics, a company co-founded by some of the technology’s principal developers. The technology, first announced in June, offers a completely new way to produce a greener version of this essential chemical.
Their licensing announcement in November 2021 is the latest in a string of bids to develop leading ammonia technologies in Australia that can propel this (currently) deeply polluting but vital chemical towards a greener future. Other techniques have been developed by researchers at the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales (UNSW). Commercial outfits ranging from up-starter new energy enterprises to the established bastions of the energy industry are vying for a slice of this renewable pie.
Jupiter Ionics says it has secured seed funding of $2.5 million to scale up the technology for commercial use. If successful, the technology has transformative potential.
What’s the deal with ammonia?
Ammonia is a pungent gas used most prominently as a fertiliser in the food industry. It’s produced by reacting hydrogen from water with nitrogen separated from the air.
According to forecasts, the global ammonia market is set to become a whopping $125-billion beast by 2025. About 80% of the ammonia currently produced industrially is used as agricultural fertiliser; the rest is used for various other applications, including refrigerant gas, water-purification and manufacturing.
But ammonia production, at least in its current form, is terrible for the planet. Traditional ammonia production, under the Haber-Bosch method practised since the early 20th century, uses natural gas or other fossil fuels to obtain hydrogen, which is then reacted with nitrogen from the atmosphere to produce ammonia.
About 80% of the ammonia currently produced industrially is used as agricultural fertiliser.
“So effectively, in the traditional Haber-Bosch process as we have it today, ammonia is a fossil fuel product,” says Doug MacFarlane, one of the principal inventors of the new method and a professor at Monash University.