Pair claim they can make ammonia to fuel cars for just 20 cents per liter

Sep 05, 2011 by Bob Yirka weblog
Production of ammonia 1946-2007. Image: Wikipedia.

(PhysOrg.com) -- John Fleming of SilverEagles Energy and Tim Maxwell from Texas Tech University, say they have developed a way to make ammonia that is cheap enough so that it could be used as fuel for cars. If their claims turn out to be true, many consumers might consider switching over because ammonia, when burned in an engine, emits nothing but nitrogen and water vapor out the tailpipe. And if that’s not enough incentive, they claim they can make the ammonia for just 20 cents a liter (approximately 75 cents a gallon).

The secret to their low cost estimates actually lie in their newly developed method for making hydrogen, which they use to make their ammonia. They say that by using a new kind of transformer that Fleming built, they can reduce the number of cells necessary for electrolysis to such a degree that they can produce hydrogen at almost half the cost of traditional electrolysis methods.

To make the ammonia, the hydrogen produced is pumped into a compression chamber where a piston squeezes it, causing it to heat up; in this case to 400C°. The result is then allowed to escape into another compartment where a reaction is set off by an iron oxide catalyst. This makes the hydrogen grow even hotter to the point where it begins creating ammonia. The ammonia and leftover is then allowed to cool down and decompress in yet a third compartment, and in so doing causes another piston to move back and forth creating energy that is fed back into the system to help lower electric consumption. Then, the ammonia is chilled to -75C° and pumped into a tank for use.

Cars already on the road can use ammonia as an additive without modification (up to 10%) and flex cars could be, according to Fleming, easily modified to use ammonia in conjunction with ethanol, allowing for a mixture of 85% ammonia.

This is all still new technology of course, and apparently no one else has yet verified the claims of the duo, so until that happens, everyone will just have to wait and see if everything they say pans out. One thing not mentioned is the smell; the strong odor of gasoline at service stations is bad enough, it’s difficult to imagine the exceedingly noxious odor of permeating the air of such places instead.

Explore further: Chemists achieve new technique with profound implications for drug development

More information: via Newscientist

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dav_i
4.4 / 5 (7) Sep 05, 2011
What's the MPG of ammonia then?
antonima
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 05, 2011
Theres no way people will stand the smell of ammonia at all gas stations. It is interesting to note that breathing ammonia lowers the pH of blood, which is bad for pH-conscious viruses.
Eric_B
4 / 5 (8) Sep 05, 2011
the concentration at which one can smell gas is the concentration at which it is cancerous according to materials safety information.

the pumps and receivers should be upgraded to a sealed coupler.
Burnerjack
3.9 / 5 (10) Sep 05, 2011
It should also be noted that ammonia is extremely reactive and therefore excedingly corrosive. Typicaly, stainless steel is used for handling.
Moral of the story? A cheaper way to produce hydrogen is where the focus may bring greater benefit.
Norezar
3.4 / 5 (16) Sep 05, 2011
I'd rather buy a horse.
ZachB
2.9 / 5 (12) Sep 05, 2011
I'm pretty certain that any possibility of a new fuel for existing cars coming from a new player in the fuel industry will never, simply never, meet EPA standards in the USA...Unless of course it requires hundreds of billions of government subsidies, in which case I would expect the fuel to hit the market by say, next Thursday.
Sanescience
3.5 / 5 (11) Sep 05, 2011
Production of ammonia for industry, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizer is a big part of world energy consumption (over 1%). By itself improving the energy efficiency is good news.

As for a transportation fuel, I don't know. Might just be more of a marketing/advertising gimmick to propose it. Though, it certainly would "motivate" proper maintenance of vehicles and stations to fix leaks into the environment quickly.

Perhaps some additional research to develop an efficient production of methane, or better yet, isobutanol.

http://www.physor...ose.html
Husky
4.9 / 5 (12) Sep 05, 2011
Well i dont know what exactly they are trying to sell , their hydrogen electrosis process or the ammonia, but:

Spot prices in the Asian ammonia market registered a relentless climb from mid-February until mid-May 2011, propelled by strong global demand and reduced availability on the back of regional production outages. Prices increased from $490-520/tonne CFR (cost & freight) Asia in mid-February to $555-575/tonne CFR Asia in mid-May 2011

So, if their claims are true that would mean somewhere between $ 200 - 300 for a tonne of ammonia using their process, thats quite an improvement even without vehicles using it...
Husky
5 / 5 (2) Sep 05, 2011
also i would think that ammonia being a powerfull solvent would be a good candidate as an additive to recycled old fats/oils for biodiesel, since it would dissovle many sticky particulates, btw: does annybody know if ammonia could be added to kerosene ??
Doug_Huffman
2 / 5 (8) Sep 05, 2011
The permissible concentration in air is lower that the level at which one can smell ammonia, I think <1 ppm. I enjoyed working with it. I had two 5K gallon tanks of high grade ammonia and mixed/sparged it with nitrogen from a 35K gallon tank of LN2. Coming to work in the morning I could smell the progress being made from the odor of the vented NH4.
eigenbasis
3.5 / 5 (2) Sep 05, 2011
I'll bike instead
avafeas
4.3 / 5 (15) Sep 05, 2011
It sounds great to say that ammonia will burn in an engine to produce purely N2 and water vapor, but I don't know how much I believe that. What potential is there to produce NOx at varying engine temps/compressions, what about faulty engines; is there a risk of emitting significant amounts of NOx or unburned NH3?
Cave_Man
2.7 / 5 (9) Sep 05, 2011
It sounds great to say that ammonia will burn in an engine to produce purely N2 and water vapor, but I don't know how much I believe that. What potential is there to produce NOx at varying engine temps/compressions, what about faulty engines; is there a risk of emitting significant amounts of NOx or unburned NH3?


Took the words right out of my mouth....5 stars!
Skepticus
1.4 / 5 (9) Sep 05, 2011
No way the ordinary motorist will be allowed to have tankfuls of dirt cheap ammonia in their hands. Too easy to make ammonium nitrate with nitric acid, mix that with diesel oil and you are having a terrorist's fertilizer bomb.
The inventors "would be expected" to make their process and the ammonia as expensive as gas, or be sued for fraud or having unfortunate accidents...
akaryrye
5 / 5 (5) Sep 05, 2011
According to http://wiki.xtron..._density and cross-referenced with wikipedia, the energy density of ammonia compared to gasoline is about 1 to 2. Gasoline has 9700 WH/L while ammonia has ~4300 WH/L. Taking this into account, powering vehicles with Anhydrous Ammonia would still cost more than half the current per mile cost to power a vehicle. If this could be made practical, it would be awesome, but as with most things, there are technical difficulties in bringing the tech to a practical application.

Methamphetamine manufacturers would be pretty jazzed though.
jamesrm
5 / 5 (5) Sep 05, 2011
As Ammonia (as urea) is already used to clean NOx in some systems should not be a problem.

http://www.cca-in...MNOx.htm

"Too easy to make ammonium nitrate with nitric acid, mix that with diesel oil and you are having a terrorist's fertilizer bomb."

Maybe we should tight controls on diesel oil as that an ingredient in your recipe for a fear based economy as well?
Urgelt
4.4 / 5 (5) Sep 05, 2011
I'm all for a more efficient method of electrolysis. That's nice. But I'm extremely skeptical of the cost analysis that predicted 20 cents for a liter of ammonia. There's a whole lot of energy going into mechanical compressing and cooling in the process described by this article.

Like other commenters, I'm also skeptical that ammonia will make a good transportation fuel. It's caustic, toxic, too damn handy if you want to make a car bomb, and if combustion is less than 100%, you'll get some truly nasty byproducts out of your exhaust.

I suppose if cheap ammonia production takes off, it might be a possible alternative fuel for power plants, where full combustion and risk can be better controlled. But for transportation, I'd rather see advances in battery technology come to market in EVs. Give us long ranges and quick recharges, and we'll be glad to say "bye" to the era of liquid transportation fuels.
gimpypoet
1.4 / 5 (10) Sep 05, 2011
cut the horsepower in future cars by half or more make smaller engines which require less steel in the frames, and in the engines and use more composites and mpg will go up.
ford model a (1927-1931) got 25 to 30 mpg, where is the mpg for today? if you use less gas, big oil won't make huge profits for stockholders. why doesn't gov't buy/invest in oil companies? because then they would have to explain why the gdp fell. instead they keep it "private" cause they all own the publically traded stock and as stockholders have no responsibility, the corporation does. Didn't you people take business in college? corps hire lawyers to cut their taxes and lobby congress to change the laws to protect themselves. the a-model ford data ought to tell you something. The faster you go the more you pay, thats why the speed limit was raised back to 65, so mpg is less spend more. see the trend. try to go less than 55 onthe highway after all the fingers, the cops will stop you for obstructing traffic.
Vendicar_Decarian
1.3 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2011
"does annybody know if ammonia could be added to kerosene" - Husky

Ammonia is a gas at STP.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (4) Sep 05, 2011
"cut the horsepower in future cars by half or more make smaller engines which require less steel in the frames, and in the engines and use more composites and mpg will go up." - Gimpypoet

And highway speeds will have to go way down.

40 MPH highway will be the eventual speed limit.
pianoman
1 / 5 (4) Sep 05, 2011
area 51-- hello
gimpypoet
2.3 / 5 (10) Sep 05, 2011
if vehicles were lighter, with stronger than steel composits, why would they be slower? less weight would mean that these vehicles could be scaled to account for horse power decrease, and most autos are way overpowered now anyway. this is why to save gas they say quit "jack rabbit starts, acceloratr slowly and maintain the speed limit. The people want better cars and lower gas prices, if less fuel was used by vehicles less taxes would be collected. this is why that light that takes to long to change takes so long, because you get pissed off at it and stomp your foot on the gas. studies are done on traffic flow, and advances that could be made are burried. if america used less gas per car, demand would go down and less tax revenue would go into gov't coffers. Also due to the lower volumes being used, people who own stock in that industry would lose money and a chain reaction would melt down the GDP.This IS only my opinion, of course, but supply and demand economics says it would.
gimpypoet
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 05, 2011
I'm pretty certain that any possibility of a new fuel for existing cars coming from a new player in the fuel industry will never, simply never, meet EPA standards in the USA...Unless of course it requires hundreds of billions of government subsidies, in which case I would expect the fuel to hit the market by say, next Thursday.

even this person can see that lower consumption or an alternate source would still result in similar prices. even if we,as a group lowered demand, the producers would claim foul and get a subsidy like farmers get. got to maintain product turnover to keep the taxes filling the coffers. why no rich tax,because then the bills would get paid and middle class would rub shoulders with the upper class. can't have that huh? this is still thebest country and all that, but rich people put us here, not the poor. They make money because their friends in gov't can change the laws to their favor. doyou have a law requiring insurance? do you pay taxes? look around ok?
gimpypoet
1.4 / 5 (10) Sep 05, 2011
If stop signs replaced stoplights, less fuel would burn in cars, no electricity would be used, and instead of having a computer controlled light stop you, you would have to use your mind for your own safty. the rich want convience and to do less, their aredependant upon their servants. I say level the feild more and then they would demand the rules to change again to their favor. no "cheaper" alternatives will ever sell and solar and wind can not sustain our energy needs at the current levels. if they could split water, the price would skyrocket as soon as it took off. what water would they split? waste water? no, clean water,freshwater, because impurities would kill/limit the splitting process. live local and buy local and demand stopsigns, less government, and soon fbi/homland sec. will be knocking on my door. fine, i'm clean. Pot has lots of propertie, transmits heat well and burns fingers, but can't research that either. what will we do? sorry for the politics, still mad.
Humpty
2.1 / 5 (7) Sep 05, 2011
Once upon a time, a guy gave me a sniff out of the top of a bottle that had quite a lot of ammonia in the mixture - used for a blue printing machine.

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Like a baseball bat to the forehead.

Damn - that was quite an experience.

Recommended to everyone, to try at least ONCE in their life times.
avafeas
not rated yet Sep 05, 2011
As Ammonia (as urea) is already used to clean NOx in some systems should not be a problem.

http://www.cca-in...MNOx.htm

"Too easy to make ammonium nitrate with nitric acid, mix that with diesel oil and you are having a terrorist's fertilizer bomb."

Maybe we should tight controls on diesel oil as that an ingredient in your recipe for a fear based economy as well?


The website you quoted mentions using the decomposition products of urea to react with existing NOx emissions on a catalyst. This doesn't address the fact that reacting ammonia in a car engine would almost certainly produce NOx under the right conditions; once the NOx in the exhaust gases are ejected from the engine block they are no longer at the same P,V,T conditions and will probably not react further.
PPihkala
1 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2011
I think that cheaper ammonia is good, not as fuel but as rawstock for fertilizers. And we all can use cheaper food.
Skepticus
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 06, 2011
As Ammonia (as urea) is already used to clean NOx in some systems should not be a problem.

http://www.cca-in...MNOx.htm

"Too easy to make ammonium nitrate with nitric acid, mix that with diesel oil and you are having a terrorist's fertilizer bomb."

Maybe we should tight controls on diesel oil as that an ingredient in your recipe for a fear based economy as well?


That's right! great idea! We already restrict and inspect everying liquid that goes on planes, so why stop? Lockdown everything! It's already a fear based economy. Sales and purchases of nitrate fertilizers are to be recorded, haven't you know?
Doug_Huffman
1.7 / 5 (6) Sep 06, 2011
Like a baseball bat to the forehead. Damn - that was quite an experience.
Remember to waft odors towards your nose like they used to teach in HS chemistry class.

I wuz looking for some chemical in a cabinet of forgotten stuff, once upon a time (ie, not a sea story), and took a gentle sniff of what turned out to be ammonia. The baseball bat let me see stars. I smelled nothing for a long time.
Magnette
2.8 / 5 (4) Sep 06, 2011
"cut the horsepower in future cars by half or more make smaller engines which require less steel in the frames, and in the engines and use more composites and mpg will go up." - Gimpypoet

And highway speeds will have to go way down.

40 MPH highway will be the eventual speed limit.


That's not true at all. Modern composites allow for much lighter vehicles which, in turn, allows for smaller, leaner burning engines.
My wife drives a Fiat 500 Twin Air. This has a 'huge' 85bhp engine that will top the car out at 108mph but, driven sensibly, returns an average of 65mpg. A lot of this is down to the lightness of using composites which, in some cases, are stronger than steel. F1 cars are purely composite but designed to be strong.
Losing gas guzzling engines for more efficient smaller engines is definitely the way forwards for everyday vehicles.
LEDman
5 / 5 (3) Sep 06, 2011
Interesting to note that people are commenting on energy density. Anhydrous ammonia has a higher hydrogen content than liquid hydrogen, without all the headaches associated with handling cryogenic liquids. It beats compressed hydrogen by a long shot as well. If you want a hydrogen economy then ammonia is probably going to the be the way to go for storage and transportation.

As for concerns about unburnt ammonia in the exhaust, there are catalysts that can break ammonia down into nitrogen and hydrogen with very high efficiency at relatively low temperatures.
Sanescience
1.2 / 5 (5) Sep 06, 2011
Regarding new fuels (carriers of energy):

Nature has shown the way and hydrocarbons are the best way to get a "handle" on hydrogen. Some form of Bio-diesel is probably near optimal, as there is virtually no loss of fuel (evaporation) during transportation, engine efficiency of a clean diesel engine is also superior because of the high compression ratios, and you can run all your heavy industry vehicles on it that needs the high torque diesel engines provide. Plus you save trillions by avoiding re-investing in a new infrastructure and all the mechanics get to keep their jobs.
Javinator
5 / 5 (1) Sep 06, 2011
If stop signs replaced stoplights, less fuel would burn in cars, no electricity would be used, and instead of having a computer controlled light stop you, you would have to use your mind for your own safty. the rich want convience and to do less, their aredependant upon their servants.


The extra fuel from the hundred of idling cars that are constantly stopping and starting as they approach the stop sign would be ridiculous.

Also, us using our own minds for our own safety doesn't work so well. That's why there are so many accidents. With your stop sign replacing all stoplights theory I could see many more accidents coming your way. I'm sure just stop signs will work great at 4-way 2 or 3 lane intersections.

Pot has lots of propertie


I'd lay off.
KingDWS
4.5 / 5 (2) Sep 06, 2011
One other thing that ammonia is good for is as a liquid fuel for fuel cells. A fuel cell powered car is just a "car" without any real differences than a ic vehicle. A liquid fuel gives the user the same ability of a IC vehicle to quickly refuel and drive down the road as far as he needs or wants. No where near the expense or waste with the hydrogen.
Magnette
3 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2011
If stop signs replaced stoplights, less fuel would burn in cars, no electricity would be used, and instead of having a computer controlled light stop you, you would have to use your mind for your own safty. the rich want convience and to do less, their aredependant upon their servants.


The extra fuel from the hundred of idling cars that are constantly stopping and starting as they approach the stop sign would be ridiculous.



A lot of European cars are fitted with automatic stop/start systems for exactly this reason.
TBH you don't notice it working after the first couple of times.
that_guy
not rated yet Sep 08, 2011
"does annybody know if ammonia could be added to kerosene" - Husky

Ammonia is a gas at STP.


I'll tell you why I rated you badly. First, your above statement doesn't answer the question. Molecular Nitrogen and Oxygen are both gasses, and they can be dissolved in, for example, water.

Second, the discussion of Ammonia as a fuel has been around the idea that you would have a more closed tank system, allowing something higher than standard pressure.

Also, the 40 mile speed limit you suggested has nothing to do with reality. 55 is the most efficient speed. MPG regulations are put in place due to limited resources in order to best help everyone get the gas they need, and to help reduce pollution.

If you have a non-polluting fuel, that can essentially be made forever (NH4 creation uses no limited resources), there would be little or no reason to have any regulations other than to make sure the consumer can get from A to B safely.
Skultch
5 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2011
All I want to know is: will I be able to piss in the gas tank if I run out a mile from a fill-up station? :-P
that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2011
All I want to know is: will I be able to piss in the gas tank if I run out a mile from a fill-up station? :-P

Yes, but not immediately. You'd have to let it ripen for a few days. Or you can find some feral cats to get you there.
mosahlah
1 / 5 (3) Sep 10, 2011
You dont want a tank full of this stuff sloshing all over the pavement in an accident. I used to work with anhydrous ammonia, and I kept a respirator handy.
Callippo
1 / 5 (4) Sep 10, 2011
GaryB
1 / 5 (1) Sep 11, 2011
As some stated above: The ammonia is better used as a hydrogen source for fuel cells rather than burning it.

Also: There's not that much difference in the effect of bursting a tank of gasoline (very rare these days) and a tank of ammonia. Both would be a disaster but at least the ammonia is very unlikely to burn outside since it has a much higher ignition temperature.