LOTTE, Sumitomo of Americas and Syzygy Plasmonics to partner on photocatalytic cracking of ammonia to produce hydrogen
Syzygy Plasmonics, LOTTE Chemical and LOTTE Fine Chemical (LOTTE Chemical HQ), and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas (SCOA) announced a joint development agreement to test a photocatalytic reactor for clean hydrogen production. The reactor will be installed and brought online in the second half of 2023 at LOTTE Chemical HQ facilities in Ulsan, South Korea.
With the announcement of its 2030 Vision in May 2022, LOTTE Chemical HQ defined clear pathways and directives for decarbonization while simultaneously achieving record revenue growth. Among other climate-focused goals, the company is setting the stage to advance the hydrogen economy in Korea. Plans include importing green ammonia that can be readily transported and stored before it is converted into clean hydrogen with expectations of generating 1.2 million tons of hydrogen per year domestically by 2030.
The traditional thermal cracking of ammonia uses high heat and pressure to convert it to hydrogen gas. The heat required to drive this process is achieved by burning fossil fuels, making ammonia cracking extremely carbon-intensive. Using fully electric reactors gives hydrogen producers a way to reduce or eliminate their reliance on combustion as the energy source for processing ammonia.
SCOA first invested in Syzygy in 2019 and since that time, the companies have worked together to deploy its technologies. Syzygy has developed platform reactor technology that uses light from ultra-high-efficiency LEDs to power chemical reactions by removing the need for heat from burning fuel, which is how traditional carbon-intensive chemical reactors are powered. (Earlier post.)
The Syzygy photoreactor technology is the culmination of more than 30 years of plasmonics and nanotechnology research out of Rice University. A combination of reactor design and photocatalytic nanoparticles enables light-driven chemical reactions with unprecedented efficiency, eliminating the need for combustion in the chemical reaction chain, and enabling the production of zero-emission hydrogen, green ammonia, and other foundational chemicals.
Replacing traditional thermal catalysts with photocatalysts not only removes combustion, but also increases efficiency. Each photocatalyst consists of tiny catalyst nanoparticles embedded in the surface of a larger plasmonic nanoparticle; this two-part nanoparticle structure is referred to as an antenna-reactor.
Through plasmonics, the larger nanoparticle transfers light energy to the tiny catalyst structures and in so doing makes or breaks chemical bonds to cause chemical reactions.
The antenna-reactor provides more efficient capture and transfer of light energy to the reactive sites on the catalyst, effectively replacing the need for thermal energy from the combustion of fossil fuels with light. This antenna-reactor concept can be applied to develop photocatalysts for multiple chemical reactions, providing a path for replacing thermocatalysis with photocatalysis throughout the chemical value chain.
The Syzygy P-DA photoreactor has the potential to produce clean hydrogen from green ammonia and renewable electricity. It breaks ammonia into hydrogen and nitrogen. This technology has promise for producing zero-emissions hydrogen.
Syzygy’s process offers a new way to electrify chemical manufacturing and eliminate emissions associated with powering chemical processes. The company has demonstrated through extensive lab and pre-commercial-scale testing its ability to split ammonia efficiently and to produce hydrogen gas without combustion.
Development results show the technology will not only reduce the carbon footprint of hydrogen production, but it will also help reduce costs. The LOTTE Chemical HQ installation marks the first time the technology will be deployed at a commercial scale.