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Highly efficient and stable Ru-free catalyst for hydrogen generation from ammonia

Although the thermocatalytic ammonia decomposition reaction (ADR) is an effective way to obtain clean hydrogen, it relies on the use of expensive and rare ruthenium (Ru)-based catalysts, making it not sustainable or economically feasible.

Now, a team from the University at Buffalo, Southern Illinois University, University of South Carolina and Brookhaven National Laboratory reports a highly active and stable Ru-free catalyst from earth-abundant elements for efficient carbon-free hydrogen generation via ammonia decomposition.

A complete ammonia conversion to hydrogen was achieved at an economically feasible 450 ˚C over the inexpensive catalyst. An open-access paper describing their work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.

The heterostructured Ru-free catalyst consists of CoNi alloy nanoparticles well-dispersed on MgO-CeO2-SrO mixed oxide support with further potassium promotion.


Schematic illustration for the decorated CoNialloy on the oxide support of MgO-CeO2-SrO. Tabassum et al.

The catalyst presents 97.7% and 87.50% NH3 conversion efficiency at 450 ˚C in GHSV of 6000 mL h-1 gcat-1 and 12000 mL h-1 gcat-1, respectively. At 500 ˚C, the hydrogen production rate (57.75 mmol gcat-1 min-1) becomes comparable to most of the reported Ru-based catalysts.

The team demonstrated catalyst performance in a membrane reactor prototype, showing excellent stability up to 600 hours at 500 ˚C and 1.5 bar without apparent degradation.

… this is the first Ru-free catalyst that exhibited outstanding performance, approaching complete NH3 conversion at economically feasible 450 ˚C for clean on-site hydrogen generation. This work would stimulate more research on developing advanced ammonia cracking technologies using earth-abundant materials, which is the key to the sustainable hydrogen economy.

Further engineering the catalyst nanostructures and morphologies (e.g., porosities, sizes, and surface areas) is crucial for achieving complete NH3 conversion at higher GHSVs and higher pressures (up to 40 bar) for practical application in the future. Scaling up the catalyst synthesis from grams to industrially relevant quantities while maintaining the ideal dispersion and other characteristics remains a grand challenge. Low-Co or Co-free catalysts are desirable due to the relatively high cost of Co and a major human rights issue associated with its production at present.

—Tabassum et al.


  • H. Tabassum, S. Mukherjee, J. Chen, D. Holiharimanana, S. Karakalos, X. Yang, S. Hwang, T. Zhang, B. Lu, M. Chen, T. Zhong, E. Kyriakidou, Q. Ge and G. Wu, (2022) “Hydrogen Generation via Ammonia Decomposition on Highly Efficient and Stable Ru- free Catalysts: Approaching Complete Conversion at 450 ˚C”Energy Environ. Sci. doi: 10.1039/D1EE03730G.



ok to commercialize right now.


' performance, approaching complete NH3 conversion at economically feasible 450 ˚C for clean on-site hydrogen generation. '

Since this may answer questions regarding hydrogen distribution, it will be interesting to see how many of those who have made this one of their objections to the use of hydrogen re-evaluate their position, and how many stick their fingers in their ears, to say: 'I can't hear you!'

When the facts change, I change my opinions.

Others double down.


Except it's not hydrogen distribution.  It's ammonia distribution with conversion to H2.  There are additional losses in the process but different economics and logistics.

It remains to be seen how this will work out.  Straight electric is and will remain the cheapest, of course.


Hi EP.

I was pretty sceptical about efficiencies of hydrogen production from ammonia, but there would now appear to be some extremely good solutions, at a reasonably advanced stage.

Here is Coortek and their membrane technology:


' Currently established methods have energy efficiency ratings of between 70 and 75 percent, but our approach has a potential efficiency of 90 percent. The end product is compressed hydrogen with a high degree of purity. The ceramic membrane reactor also separates carbon dioxide more efficiently, enabling the greenhouse gas to be easily transported and sequestered.'


' The next stage in the development of this technology is already well underway. A pilot facility has been established in Dhahran in Saudi Arabia. The generator installed at this facility, which is five times bigger than the one described in the Science paper, has also been shown to work.

We’re certain that this technology can be scaled up even further. Our hope is that the first industrial installation of a commercial hydrogen production system can take place in the next two to three years.'

And this is not the only game in town for high efficiency extraction of hydrogen from ammonia.

Here is a low temperature ( 250C ) electro-thermal method under development:




Yeah, if we were using nuclear to generate the electricity on demand.
As it is using renewables, that is cheapest, providing it is about when needed.

But even then the cost of the batteries has to be accounted for.

And for heavy freight transport, which is what the initial roll out is about, batteries are far tougher to make work.

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