An EPFL researcher develops a low-cost catalyst that converts ammonia into hydrogen

EPFL catalyst hydrogen ammonia Switzerland
EPFL: A catalyst to turn ammonia into hydrogen

The EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) has announced that one of its researchers has developed a catalyst that enables ammonia to be broken down into hydrogen at lower cost and without the use of rare metals.

The researcher concerned is named Kevin Turani-I-Belloto. He is associated with Professor Oliver Kröcher’s biofuels group. Last autumn, he received an Ignition grant from EPFL’s Vice Presidency for Innovation and an Enable grant from EPFL’s Technology Transfer Office to build his prototype. He has recently been awarded a Bridge Proof of Concept grant funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and Innosuisse.

“Catalyzing agents do exist, but they’re either not effective enough or they’re too expensive, like ruthenium, an extremely rare metal. My system delivers high yields, uses abundant raw materials and cuts the catalyst cost by a factor of over 200,” stated Kevin Turani-I-Belloto. We have no more details, but a patent application has been filed.

“Today, half of the hydrogen that’s produced goes to the manufacture of ammonia, which in turn is used as the main ingredient in fertilizer,” explained the researcher. NH3 is a colourless gas, but it is not odourless, which makes it easy to detect leaks. It can be liquefied at a relatively low pressure (8.5 bar) or a relatively low temperature (-33°C), making it easy to transport. In liquid form, ammonia has a higher energy density than liquefied hydrogen.

“What’s more, distribution networks for ammonia are already well-developed around the world. Hence my idea for using it to transport hydrogen,” Turani-I-Belloto then added. “If we’re successful in using ammonia to store hydrogen, that will unlock an entire value chain,” he concluded.

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Article written by Laurent Meillaud and translated by Mariem Ben Tili

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About the author

Laurent Meillaud

Laurent Meillaud

Freelance automotive journalist and consultant, author as well, focused on technologies and new trends for more than 30 years, convinced that hydrogen is one of the energies for the future.

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