Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hydrolysis (electrolysis) of Ammonia

It's another way of storing hydrogen and producing it on demand, which eliminates the need to store and /or transport hydrogen on its own.  You have to have the stuff first, so can you synthesize it in quantities?   The link in the previous sentence was from a company that has done hydrogen fuel cell research.  What struck me is that it uses so much less energy than the electrolysis of water.  One obvious downside is the toxicity of ammonia.


More discussion here.  And here.


One more link for discussion and I'm finished here.

Another problem is getting the hydrogen for the synthesis of ammonia.  If you get it from fossil fuels, there goes your greenie support.   Not that I care that much, but from a political standpoint, it would be useful to get their support for it.   Lots of hydrogen is made in refineries, but it goes into the production of hydrocarbons.  If you make ammonia with the hydrogen, you don't solve the fossil fuel problem.

You could however, synthesize ammonia from atmospheric nitrogen plus electrolyzed water using "renewable" energy, such as solar or wind.  This would be a way to do it without using carbon at all.  Again, it is the efficiency of the process that you are looking at.  Energy from renewables isn't cheap.  Add the cost of producing hydrogen, which is energy intensive also, and you have an expensive fuel.  But when all is said and done, you could fill up with ammonia and run your car on the electrolyzed ammonia, which yields hydrogen, and then run the hydrogen through the fuel cell to produce electricity to run the motor for the car.

The resources used would require no mining, nor drilling.  It would use freely available materials, such as nitrogen in the air and hydrogen in the water.   The result of the fuel cell operation would be water, which can returned to the environment.  Also, the electrolysis of ammonia would yield nitrogen, which can be released into the environment.

The most costly step would be the production of hydrogen for the ammonia.  Electrolysis of ammonia is cheap.  It would seem to me a good way to use stranded energy sources that are far from populated areas.  The ammonia would be produced and then shipped to where it is needed.

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