Producing ammonia using less energy

Scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed an improved catalyst facilitating the synthesis of ammonia at merely 50°C (when conventional techniques require temperatures of 450°C).

Ammonia is commonly used as a refrigerant (known as R717). Its production is typically carried out  through the Haber process, which converts atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia by a reaction with hydrogen under high temperatures and pressures (between 400 °C and 500 °C and 15-25 MPa).

These temperatures and pressures require a lot of energy.

A team of scientists from the Tokyo Institute of Technology recently presented a new technique: they developed a catalyst using the common dehydrating agent calcium hydride and adding fluoride to it. The catalyst would facilitate the synthesis of ammonia at 50 °C. [1]


Their catalyst comprises a solid solution of CaFH, with ruthenium (Ru) nanoparticles deposited on its surface. The addition of fluoride (F-) to calcium hydride (CaH2), a common dehydrating agent, is what makes the catalyst effective at lower temperatures and pressures. After conducting spectroscopic and computational analyses, the scientists propose a possible mechanism by which the catalyst facilitates the production of ammonia.


This new method for producing ammonia cuts energy demands, thereby reducing the carbon dioxide emissions from the use of large amounts of fossil fuels. The findings of this study highlight the potential of an environmentally sustainable Haber-Bosch process, paving the way for the next revolution in agricultural food production. [2]