Researchers have improved the extraction of Hydrogen fuel from Ammonia using a catalyst and that makes this clean carbon free energy source more practical
The Tetrahedron shape Ammonia molecule is composed of 3 Hydrogen atoms and one Nitrogen atom. So the most obvious benefit according to climate scientists? No carbon. The most obvious drawback? Nitrogen is dangerous, especially when it bonds with oxygen free radical. Now by using two metal-crystalline catalysts scientists have figured out a way to reduce the Nitrous Oxide and quicken the reaction.
In order to get a source of fuel from this molecule you need to break off enough Hydrogen pairs (H2). Hydrogen – the lightest element on the periodic table is most common in rocket fuels. What do we use to break off hydrogen atoms from Ammonia to create fuel? Combustion of course.
Ammonia has a high ignition temperature (651 degrees c) and so that can be chaotic to say the east. The good news is that it doesn’t release carbon – the bad news is that when it breaks apart the remaining nitrogen can bond with whatever free radical oxygen particles are left in the air creating harmful nitrogen oxide instead.
Nitrogen Oxide inflames the lining of the lungs and can lead to respiratory problems such as wheezing, coughing colds flu and bronchitis to name a few. Of course we have enough issues with atmospheric pollution so that is definitely a concern.
This is where the International Research Organization for Advanced Science and Technology in Kimamoto University Japan came up with a set of molecular catalysts to prevent the release of Nitrogen Oxide and speed up the reaction at the same time.
In order to speed up a chemical reaction and reduce undesired bi-products catalytic molecules are often use to complement the process. It is a simple trick of chemistry. They work by brushing up against the outer atoms of reactant molecules, changing the direction of each bond. As the atoms detach with their old bonds and re-connect with open sites on the catalyst molecule a stable intermediary step is formed in the otherwise high entropy state of ignition.
In the case of Ammonia The catalytic arrangement was composed of two molecules – a mullite crystal of Silicon and aluminum carrying another molecule called copper oxide.
3A2S is actually a type of natural outer membrane protein that not so surprisingly happens to work as a catalyst as well. Crystals and metallic elements make excellent conductors so it is not surprisingly that we find one here quickening the release of chemical energy.
Copper Oxide particles suck up free radical oxygen atoms preventing their use for constructing Nitrogen Oxide.
This helps to prevent any free radicals from escaping the bonds of a molecule, making everything safer, faster and easier to contain. In the case of Ammonia it was vital to prevent Nitrogen from bonding with Oxygen after Hydrogen – the barrier between them is broken free for fuel.
By controlling the combustible bi-products scientists can at the same time make the extraction of Hydrogen fuel quicker and easier to control due to the reactions improved predictability.
Another good thing about a catalyst is that it can be salvaged afterwards so they speed things up, make everything safer, easier and survive extremely hot ignition temperatures. Pretty impressive for something smaller then a pinprick.