Clean ammonia generation and purification technology development


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Applications are no longer being accepted for this project

The world needs to convert to a low-carbon renewable energy future and part of this transition will require a clean fuel that can easily be transported and stored. The ideal fuel candidate is ammonia, as a hydrogen carrier, given ammonia has double the energy density of its competitors and the infrastructure to transport ammonia globally already exists. To achieve this transition, efficient low-cost ammonia generation and purification technology needs to be developed, which is the focus of this PhD program.

The PhD program consists of two projects: the first project is focused on developing direct ammonia electrolysis technology, while the second project aims at developing targeted ammonia purification technology through adsorbents.

The first project will develop novel electrolyte material, that is a core component of electrolysis. The electrolyte will be designed to enable direct ammonia generation under low humidity conditions, to enable high ammonia production efficiencies. This is achieved by combining ammonia selective polymeric materials with the proton carrier electrolyte. The outcome will be a robust electrolyte material specifically designed for ammonia generation, which overcomes the current weakness in electrolysis technology.

The second project is focused on developing adsorption technology to efficiently purify the produced ammonia, given all ammonia synthesis routes do not achieve the required high purity on their own.

Specifically, this will be achieved through synthesizing novel polyacrylonitrile based carbon fibers that are ideally suited for ammonia separation. The outcome will be an ammonia-dedicated adsorption process that can readily be coupled with electrolysis for an integrated approach to ammonia generation and purification.

This PhD program is ideally suited to chemical engineering and chemistry students who are ambitious to be a part of the clean energy revolution and have a strong interest in technology development. On the completion of the PhD program, students will have made significant contribution to clean fuel technology development and ideally positioned to be part of the growing clean energy revolution.

Project goals

  • Doping of hydrophilic nanoparticles within the electrolyte, and optimisation of proton carrier functionality with minimal hydration (UoM).
  • Combining the electrolyte with NH3 selective membranes to restrict hydrogen permeation (UoM).
  • Characterisation and optimisation of direct ammonia electrolysis utilising the novel electrolyte (UoM).
  • Synthesis and optimization of a carbon molecular sieve for the separation of NH3 and H2O (IEK-9).
  • Build-up of a corrosion-resistant PSA setup for NH3 purification (IEK-9).
  • Purification of the resulting ammonia product through PSA technology developed (IEK-9).

Supervision team

The University of Melbourne: Associate Professor Colin A Scholes

Forschungszentrum Jülich: Professor Dr Ruediger-A. Eichel

*Click on the researcher's name above to learn more about their publication and grant successes.

Who we are looking for

We are seeking PhD candidates with the following skills:

  • A masters qualification in Chemical Engineering, Chemistry or Material Science.
  • Demonstrated experience in the field of polymer science, electrochemistry, membrane technology, analytics and fundamentals in separation technology.
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Demonstrated time and project management skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to write research reports or other publications to a publishable standard (even if not published to date).
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Demonstrated organisational skills, time management and ability to work to priorities.
  • Demonstrated problem-solving abilities.

Further details

  • Two PhD projects are available. One candidate will be based at the University of Melbourne with a minimum twelve-month stay at Forschungszentrum Jülich. The FZJ candidate will be based in Jülich, and will spend a minimum of 12 months at UoM.
  • The PhD candidate will benefit from the combined expertise of the project supervisors, and the embedding into two research environments.
  • The Scholes group laboratory is ideally suited for research on clean fuels, as the facilities include two intrinsically safe walk-in fume booths designed to enable safe handling of highly flammable and toxic chemicals, such as ammonia. The laboratory also includes all the necessary polymer synthesis and processing equipment to fabricate the novel electrolyte system, electrochemical apparatuses for testing as well as the gas and liquid analytical facilities needed to accurately quantify the research outcomes.
  • At Julich we will provide the possibility to use pressure swing adsorption (PSA) and static gas adsorption technologies. For this we are currently synthesizing carbon nanofibre materials on a lab-scale electrospinning and carbonization system, it is planned to upscale the preparation to a system that allows preparing roll to roll for larger batches and enables the usage of PSA.
  • The candidate will be located at the Institute of Energy and Climate Research (IEK) at Forschungszentrum Julich and enrolled in the PhD program at RWTH Aachen and the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Melbourne.

Applications are no longer being accepted for this project

First published on 9 June 2022.

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