Wu Receives USDA Grant for Green Nitrogen Fertilizer Manufacturing
January 26, 2021
Chemical and Biological Engineering Assistant Professor Sarah (Xiao) Wu received a grant for nearly $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to further her research using liquid-phase plasma to produce green nitrogen fertilizer. The most common nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing process is the Haber-Bosch process. This energy-intensive process involves taking hydrogen from natural gas and nitrogen from the air. The process has significant environmental consequences, including emitting a large quantity of greenhouse gases. Wu’s research would provide a viable alternative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as reliance on fossil fuels through liquid-phase plasma discharge technology. The process does not rely on natural gas and uses only air and water. It also does not require catalysts to boost chemical reaction.
“Such technology will move the U.S. to a leading position in renewable fertilizer production by minimizing resource and energy consumption and improving the overall agricultural economy,” Wu said.
The grant will go toward assessing the technical feasibility of taking nitrogen and oxygen from the atmosphere and turning them into nitrate and nitrite species by a water phase plasma discharge and dissolve to produce a liquid fertilizer with applicable nitrogen concentration. Using a specialized reactor developed by Wu, air and water molecules are simultaneously ionized in a plasma state, making nitrogen fixation from nitrogen gas to nitrogen oxides possible without going a reduction route through ammonia first by traditional processes.
“This seed grant will help us collect preliminary evidence to show the promise of this new endeavor,” Wu said.
About the University of Idaho
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