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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.