Researchers replace hydrogen fuel with ammonia

June 25, 2014 0 By Bret Williams

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Hydrogen fuel research

Research team finds a way to power fuel cells with ammonia rather than with hydrogen

Fuel cells are becoming popular in the auto industry, but the fact that these energy systems run on hydrogen is somewhat problematic. Conventional hydrogen production and storage solutions are either energy intensive or expensive in nature, making fuel cells somewhat unattractive to consumers. A team of researchers from ISIS Neutron Source have found a way to resolve the problems associated with hydrogen by, quite simply, replacing it with ammonia.

New catalyst could have a major impact on clean transportation and the cost of fuel cell vehicles

The research team has developed a fuel cell catalyst that produces ammonia rather than hydrogen fuel. Ammonia can be generate more easily than hydrogen and can also be transported with fewer problems. Ammonia is also already widely used within the modern fuel infrastructure, with fuel liquid petroleum gas stations using ammonia for the fueling process. The new catalyst is primarily comprised of sodium and could go a long way toward making fuel cells less expensive than they are currently.

Ammonia fuel cells could eventually replace their hydrogen counterparts in the future

Several of the world’s major automakers have plans to release hydrogen-powered vehicles in the near future. Most of these vehicles are slated for release in 2015, or within the next two years, which means that many automakers are disinclined to change the energy systems that will be powering these new cars. For future fuel cell vehicles, however, ammonia may be a viable fuel source that could make these vehicles significantly less expensive than they are currently.

Ammonia has stronger infrastructure support than hydrogen, making it viable as a potential transportation fuel

Infrastructure support is one of the more attractive qualities of ammonia. This chemical is widely used in the fuel structure of many countries, but hydrogen is not. In order for typical fuel cell vehicles to find success, a working hydrogen infrastructure must be established before fuel cell vehicles are commercially released. Without this infrastructure, these vehicles are not likely to find any traction among consumers, making them a costly loss for automakers interested in clean transportation.