Innovative reactor turns ammonia into zero-carbon fuel for aviation

Reaction Engines, IP Group, and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) are joining forces to produce lightweight and compact ammonia cracker reactors for use in hard to decarbonize sectors.

The three partners will establish a decarbonization technology company that will design and bring compact and lightweight ammonia reactors to enable the use of ammonia as a zero-carbon fuel for use in transport applications, such as aviation and marine shipping. The innovative reactor for green ammonia will also be useful for other hard-to-decarbonize applications such as power generation, particularly ‘stranded grids’ or ‘off grid’ applications.

The reactor will catalytically crack the ammonia into an easy to combust fuel for gas turbines and internal combustion engines, aiming to enable ammonia as a zero-carbon fuel for use in transport applications.

Green ammonia is easy to store, and transport has a higher volumetric energy density than hydrogen and can be used alongside hydrogen as a zero-carbon replacement for other carbon-based fuels. It can deliver the same performance as fossil fuels without requiring a new vehicle design.

Reaction Engines’ heat exchanger technology developed for its air-breathing rocket engine will also be used to create a cracking reactor for green ammonia. STFC will contribute its leading ammonia catalyst technology, and the IP Group will supply the funding.

Cracking the ammonia using the reactors on the plane produces hydrogen and nitrogen. According to the company, its crackers enable the production of a fuel that closely mimics the performance of jet fuel or fuel for maritime applications, but without the CO2 emissions.

At present, aviation and maritime account for 5% of total global carbon emissions, and both sectors are expected to see significant increases in carbon emissions over the coming years.

“As the leading cleantech venture investor in the UK, we are delighted to be partnering with two of the country’s most innovative organizations to pursue ammonia for energy,” said Dr. Robert Trezona, Head of Cleantech, IP Group. “With the Energy Transitions Commission, we highlighted green ammonia as an essential component of a net-zero economy in the Mission Possible report 2018. The combination of technologies from Reaction Engines and STFC is a profound breakthrough, and we are excited to be joining forces to build a technology champion in this space.”



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