Your future car could be powered by a most unlikely substance: ammonia. The unusual solution could solve the problem of how to make hydrogen cars viable. As a fuel source, hydrogen has its challenges, like how to create an infrastructure for its transportation and storage, as well as how to keep it stable when pressurized.
Ammonia has been cited as a key to the entire problem, thanks to the work of some scientists in the United Kingdom. Since the compound NH3 carries a significant amount of hydrogen, a process to separate it from the nitrogen has been created. It is called “cracking” and requires some catalysts that are pricey, making it unpractical for use in vehicles.
The work of those scientists has uncovered a way to crack ammonia with sodium amide, which is cheaper. The process takes place inside the vehicle, with the ammonia actually combusting to release the energy from the hydrogen. The ammonia decomposition reactor, as it is called, would take up no more than two liters of space and could power a midsize sedan.
Another part of the solution addresses how to keep the NOx gasses from the combustion from being released into the air. At the moment, the scientists say they aren’t ready to reveal how this would be accomplished, but an explanation will be coming.
Combusting ammonia doesn’t take much, and the liquid can be transported and distributed using the current gasoline fuel system. On top of that, ammonia is in high supply and is easy and inexpensive to produce. In the near future, you could be pulling into an ammonia fueling station, depending on how the experiments and testing that are upcoming turn out.