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Russ Professor’s research finding makes cover of prestigious chemical engineering journal

Elisabeth Weems | May 14, 2018
Photo by: Ben Siegel

Russ Professor’s research finding makes cover of prestigious chemical engineering journal

Elisabeth Weems | May 14, 2018

Photo by: Ben Siegel

A novel ammonia synthesis method developed by Ohio University Russ Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Gerardine G. Botte has been featured on the cover the prestigious Chemical Communications journal.

The April issue featured “Electrochemical nitrogen reduction to ammonia under mild conditions enabled by a polymer gel electrolyte,” which was co-authored by Ph.D. chemical engineering candidate Ben Sheets. Botte and Sheets developed a new electrochemical technology that controls the transport of water in order to enable small-scale, on-site ammonia production. The benefit? An alternative energy source – one that doesn’t require high temperatures and pressures. 

“This research demonstrates our alignment with transforming the world and creating for good at the Russ College of Engineering and Technology,” said Botte, who is also the director of the Center for Electrochemical Engineering Research (CEER). “Being able to feed the world’s population requires us to make ammonia, which is the basis of fertilizers. This will change how provide food for humanity, enable us to control plant growth more effectively, and regulate emissions that go into the air, the ground and lakes.”

Ammonia is critical product in the fertilizer industry to support global agriculture, and through their research, Botte and Sheets aim to make the chemical process of ammonia synthesis more efficient.

“The industrial production of ammonia is a very large process that accounts for roughly one percent of global energy consumption each year, and any significant changes or improvements to worldwide ammonia production could represent a large change in energy consumption or in carbon dioxide production,” Sheets said.

Howard Dewald, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said the novel approach to ammonia synthesis is more efficient than the Haber-Bosch process, a widely-used, century-old method involving atmospheric hydrogen and nitrogen, and requiring high temperatures and pressures.

“Botte’s electrochemical ammonia production research operates at lower temperatures and pressures, which means potentially less cost and fewer industrial safety issues,” Dewald said. “Further, it opens a possibility for more localized production using renewable energy sources, and would offer fewer transportation and safety-related concerns.”  

Read the full research paper on the Chemical Communications website.

Colleen Carow contributed to this story.