Electrocatalytic Ammonia Synthesis for Distributed Agriculture

Electrocatalytic Ammonia Synthesis for Distributed Agriculture
PI: Yogesh Surendranath, Paul M Cook Career Development Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

Period of performance: 

September 2019 to August 2021
fertilizer, electrocatalytic, ammonia, smallholder farming, agriculture, haber-bosch, distributed agriculture, food, developing world, developing countries, farm


Ammonia (NH 3 ) is the key ingredient in fertilizers, making its supply critical to global food security.  However, most of the world’s ammonia supply, over 100 million tons per year, is produced by the Haber-Bosch process, which directly converts nitrogen and hydrogen gas to ammonia in a highly capital-intensive process that is difficult to downscale.  Finding an alternative way to synthesize ammonia could transform access to fertilizer and improve food security, particularly in the developing world where current fertilizers are prohibitively expensive.  For this seed grant project, the research team will develop an electrochemical process to synthesize ammonia, one that can be powered using renewable energy sources such as solar or wind.  Designed to be implemented in a decentralized way, this technology could enable fertilizer production directly in the fields where it is needed, and would be especially beneficial in developing regions without access to existing ammonia production infrastructure.