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A simple, one-pot chemistry to produce ammonia from air and water without emitting carbon dioxide

Technology #014-025-licht

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Figure 1: One-pot synthesis of ammonia without CO2: The synthesis is via the electrolysis of steam to H2 in molten hydroxide, adsorption of this H2 with N2 from air onto the catalyst, rearrangement and release of ammonia. The electrolysis energy is temperature and pressure dependent, decreasing rapidly at a high reactant to product ratio
Prof. Stuart Licht
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Baochen Cui
Baohui Wang
Managed By
Jerry Comanescu
Licensing Associate (202) 994-8975
Patent Protection

Provisional Patent Application Filed

Ammonia (NH3), primarily used in production of fertilizers, is one of the most commonly synthesized chemicals.  The traditional Haber-Bosch process for manufacturing NH3 is energy-intensive and because it uses natural gas as the source of hydrogen, consumes 3-5% of the world’s natural gas production and emits 200 million tons of CO2 annually.

GW researchers discovered an entirely novel electro-chemical pathway in which NH3 is produced from air and steam without emission of CO2.  This process incorporates molten hydroxide, nickel electrodes and nano-iron (III) oxide catalyst in an energy- and cost-efficient one-pot chemical reaction at low energy. (See Figure)

If adopted, this invention has the potential to significantly contribute to energy conservation and reduced CO2 emission on a global level. In addition, the invention is an endothermic reaction that occurs at elevated temperature, therefore, solar-thermal energy may be used to decrease the energy needed to drive the electro-chemical synthesis reaction. 

The researchers were able to demonstrate an efficient production of NH3 (>30% yield) in a laboratory setting.


  • Production of Ammonia

  • Eliminate the need for natural gas as a starting material.
  • Reduce or eliminate CO2 emissions.
  • Reduce energy and cost associated with ammonia synthesis.
  • Potential use of solar thermal energy to drive the reaction.