Advancing Sustainable Ammonia Synthesis through Plasma-Assisted Catalysis
J.C. Hicks, University of Notre Dame (Principal Investigator)
D.B. Go, University of Notre Dame (Co-Investigator)
W.F. Schneider, University of Notre Dame (Co-Investigator)
Ammonia (NH3) is both a common chemical and a vital nutrient for plant life. However, the synthesis of NH3 is energy intensive and leads to significant generation of greenhouse gases. A compelling alternative to current industrial scale processes is to conduct the synthesis at ambient conditions, thus making the process more energy efficient and potentially carbon neutral. Plasmas (or gas discharges) can input electrical energy into the reactant gas mixture (N2/H2) to create reactive intermediates to enhance the yield of NH3 and preclude the need for high pressures or temperatures, leading to overall better energy efficiency. Plasmas can be efficiently generated, influence reaction chemistry, and offer a number of controllable design parameters, especially in the presence of a catalyst. Despite the potential merits, plasma catalysis has not received close attention from the catalysis science community and has not benefited from the concerted coupling of synthesis, measurement, and theory-driven modeling that has been so successful in the design of thermal catalytic systems. The objectives of this project are to perform systematic plasma catalysis experiments supported by computational models that capture the molecular-scale physics and chemistry to use plasma-assisted catalysis as an alternative, scalable means to achieve the sustainable synthesis of ammonia.