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News Link • Energy

Grab ammonia out of thin air for fuel of the future

• newscientist.com
 It brought about a global revolution in agriculture – today, crops grown using ammonia-based fertilisers feed no less than 48 per cent of the planet. Could ammonia also be the clean fuel of the future?

When burned, it produces nothing more than water vapour and nitrogen, which makes up 78 per cent of Earth's atmosphere. Earlier this year Italian tyre-maker Marangoni built an ammonia-gasoline hybrid automobile, the Marangoni Toyota GT 86-R Eco-Explorer (see picture). The car can go for 178 kilometres on just one tank of ammonia. So can ammonia itself be made in a clean way?

Most ammonia is produced by heating natural gas or coal as a source of hydrogen, then forcing it to react with atmospheric nitrogen. It's highly energy-intensive, accounting for between 2 and 3 per cent of the world's energy budget and emitting over a billion tonnes of carbon each year in the process.

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