Engineers at the University of Illinois Chicago have created a solar-powered electrochemical reaction that not only uses wastewater to make ammonia — the second most-produced chemical in the world — but also achieves a solar-to-fuel efficiency that is 10 times better than any other comparable technology.
Most ammonia capture is done through the Haber-Bosch (HB) process, an energy-intensive technique used to produce fertilizer that accounts for 1-2% of the world’s annual energy consumption. Columbia engineers report they have recovered ammonia through a new method with a very low level of energy, approx 1/5 of the energy used by HB. And because the technique recycles ammonia in a closed loop, the ammonia can be recaptured for reuse in fertilizer, household cleaners, etc.
Researchers have developed a new process that could make it much cheaper to produce biofuels such as ethanol from plant waste and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Their approach, featuring an ammonia-salt based solvent that rapidly turns plant fibers into sugars needed to make ethanol, works well at close to room temperature, unlike conventional processes, according to a Rutgers-led study in the journal Green Chemistry.