Ammonia makes storage of hydrogen as an energy carrier feasible
If it depends on the participants at the GenComm conference in Brussels, we will soon be driving ammonia-powered cars. Ammonia, chemical formula NH3, contains a lot of hydrogen and is easy to store, unlike hydrogen (H2) itself.
Storing renewable energy
The GenComm conference, held on Wednesday in Brussels, is looking at the possibilities of hydrogen as the green energy carrier of the future under the title ‘Future of Hydrogen as Energy Carrier’.
GenComm is an international research project involving scientists from the VUB-ULB (Belgium), Belfast Metropolitan College (Ireland), the National University of Ireland Galway (Ireland), ENSCICAEN (France) and INSA Rouen Normandie (France).
The participants are researching new possibilities for the storage of renewable energy. With the new European climate targets, new ways of storing renewable energy are needed.
Batteries are not the only solution
“Most scientists agree that the growing share of green energy can cause problems for our energy supply”, says Professor Francesco Contino of the BURN research group of the VUB. “The energy we need will not always be available at the right time. That’s why we’re looking for new ways, alongside batteries, to store that energy sustainably. There have been experiments with hydrogen for years, but we remain stuck in the storage of that hydrogen, which is nevertheless an interesting and clean fuel. Hydrogen can be produced with renewable energy, but remains problematic to store.”
Ammonia as a solution
That’s why the scientists started looking for alternatives and ended up with ammonia. Ammonia becomes liquid under low pressure and the binding element, nitrogen, is massively present in our atmosphere. Ammonia (NH3) is a compound of nitrogen (N) and three hydrogen atoms (H).
So the storage does not cost masses of energy. This ammonia-thinking track was already explored in the 1940s, when, due to the scarcity after the war, tests were done to run petrol engines more or less successfully on ammonia. “The problem with ammonia is that it is difficult to ignite”, Contino says. “We can solve that, though, and it is also carbon-neutral”, he concludes.