Nitrogen Production Technologies
Our transdisciplinary research team at the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) is working to develop three novel nitrogen production technologies.
- The first technology is Absorbent Enhanced Ammonia Production. Professors Ed Cussler, Lanny Schmidt, and Alon McCormick in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Material Science have developed a new technology for ammonia production which can circumvent thermodynamic equilibrium and allow economical small-scale production. Based on results so far, it is possible to achieve greater than 85% conversion to ammonia in a single pass over the catalyst bed—much greater than the typical 20% conversion achieved in large commercial plants.
- Developed by Professor Roger Ruan and his team in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, the second technology is Non-Thermal Plasma Assisted Catalysis (NTP). A non-thermal plasma reactor can produce ammonia at much lower temperatures and pressures than the conventional Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis process. Recently, techniques were developed which significantly improve the reaction and conversion efficiency.
- The third technology involves the use of hydrochar derived from biomass to directly capture plant nutrients such as nitrogen or ammonia either via a production process or as part of bioremediation methods. The nitrogen enhanced hydrochar can then be used as a soil amendment. This technology is being developed by Professor Ken Valentas and his team within the Biotechnology Institute.
Overall, these technologies need to be further developed; tested at pilot scale; and then evaluated with respect to their commercial, environmental, economic, and policy implications. To accomplish these objectives, our research team has obtained funding through a MnDRIVE Transdisciplinary Research grant. View our Projects page for further funding detail.