Using ammonia to store hydrogen cleanly and securely could help drive forward its wider adoption as a 'green' fuel.
A team of researchers from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has discovered that ammonia can be used as a clean and secure way to produce hydrogen energy on-demand and in situ. The end result could be a new way of using hydrogen as an almost-limitless automotive fuel, stfc.ac.uk notes.
As hydrogen is the most abundant element on earth (making up around 71 per cent of oxygen mass), researchers have long considered ways of using it as a fuel. Where problems have occurred, though, has almost always been where storage and safety were involved.
Many existing systems were found to either not be safe enough or be overly costly. Using ammonia, however, may fix the issue on both counts.
The system quite simply involves separating the components of ammonia - using a technique known as 'cracking' - which results in the ammonia becoming one part nitrogen and three parts hydrogen. Researchers have known about cracking for a long time; the stumbling block was its expense, as catalysts for this are often expensive metals.
STFC researchers, however, found the same process can be achieved by using two simultaneous chemical processes in place of a catalyst. The end result is entirely the same.
Commenting on the findings, research leader Professor Bill David told fleetnews.co.uk: "Our approach is as effective as the best current catalysts but the active material, sodium amide, costs pennies to produce.
"We can produce hydrogen from ammonia 'on demand' effectively and affordably."