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Power to Chemicals

Power to Chemicals. Figure: Emil Drazevic, AU.
Figure: Emil Drazevic, AU.

Electrical energy generated from renewable sources is highly competitive on the power market today, and new renewable energy based power plants are installed every year. Renewable energy generation is by nature intermittent, causing fluctuations in energy supply, and supply often exceeds demand and vice versa. EU countries transmit this surplus energy to countries with large (yet limited) capacities in pumped hydro-electrical energy storage. Other solutions to this problem could include storing of the surplus electrical energy in stationary low-cost batteries or use it to produce value-added chemicals. Batteries are convenient for relatively small surpluses (kWh-MWh scale) and short discharge times (hours), while production of chemicals is a promising solution for larger energy flows during long times (days-weeks).

The main focus of the research group Power to Chemicals is to find new energy-efficient processes for converting electrical energy to chemicals, predominantly ammonia and ammonia salts. Ammonia has a great importance in agriculture, however, ammonia production is highly centralized and emits 1-2% of total CO2 on a global level. Our quest is to find a combination of an electrolyte and a catalyst which would enable energy-efficient local production of ammonia fertilizers in an electrochemical cell powered by photovoltaics or windmills.

Our research includes both fundamental and applied research topics on synthesis of new materials and new processes for electrochemical synthesis of chemicals in collaboration with other universities and industrial partners.