The Future of Green Fuels: Ammonia

Aug 10, 2014

Everyone who has studied high school chemistry (yes, that includes you) knows that Ammonia is NH3 – with three hydrogen atoms bonded with one nitrogen atom. What is interesting to note is that it provides energy when burnt with no polluting chemicals since the products of burning ammonia are water vapour and nitrogen – both of which are already present in the atmosphere and are not polluting.

Actually using ammonia as a fuel was just a dream so far since it is extracted from “polluting” hydrocarbons like coal and natural gas and used up a lot of energy. However, a revolutionary new technique discovered recently called Solid State Ammonia Synthesis by John Holbrook makes ammonia out of water vapour and atmospheric nitrogen. The technique now being commercialised by his company NHThree does use energy but if the energy used to create the ammonia is clean – such as a windmill or a solar plant, then the ammonia can be used to power cars, planes and other machines.

In the past Ammonia has been famously used to power streetcars in New Orleans, buses in Belgium and in the X-15 Hypersonic aircraft ( shown below ) which can fly at almost 5000 km/h – Ammonia Power! The fuel will be completely clean since the nitrogen and water produced can just be released back into the atmosphere. The atmosphere is 79% Nitrogen and the planet’s surface is 75% water – all that’s needed is a little clean energy energy to manufacture ammonia and voila – we have a clean fuel to use once the dirty ones run out!

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References: New Scientist

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