The production of chemicals accounts for 25% of global CO2 emissions in the industrial sector. Among them, ammonia – the most carbon intensive – is critical to sustain agriculture worldwide and has the prospect of its use as a fuel for heavy/maritime transportation. Today, ammonia’s production is highly energy-intensive and polluting, and relies on finite and localized resources such as natural gas. Alternative production schemes based on renewable energy would open the door to resource-sovereignty and sustainable circular economies.
Researchers at ICFO are working on the development of catalysts that could promote the generation of green ammonia via N2 electroreduction. This process has the potential for a net-zero environmental impact thanks to the use of renewable energy sources to drive the process, the avoidance of fossil fuels such feedstock, and the lack of greenhouse gas emissions compared to the energy- and carbon-intensive industrial routes to produce ammonia.
Ammonia’s advantages include its:
- High energy density
- Low-cost nature and transportability
- Low flammability
- Ability to adapt to existing widespread infrastructure
To advance the performance in the clean electrosynthesis of ammonia we:
- Use spectroscopy as a tool to identify reaction pathways and limiting aspects;
- Using this information, develop catalysts and reactors that improve the performance of N2 electroreduction towards its technoeconomic viability.
ICFO group CO2 Mitigation Accelerated by Photons, led by Prof. Dr. F. Pelayo García de Arquer, specialises in the design and implementation of nanomaterials for energy applications. The group’s multidisciplinary background in material design, spectroscopy, modelling, and electrochemistry, brings broad expertise in renewable technologies, solar fuels, and CO2 mitigation strategies.
The electrosynthesis of green ammonia from nitrogen in the air, water and renewable electricity requires the development of novel catalysts and electrochemical cell concepts.
Image depicting a device concept for green ammonia electrosynthesis.