Hydrogen, ethanol, electric and air cars, the media has covered many alternative fuel vehicles in recent months due to rising oil and gas prices. But, one alternative fuel that hasn’t gotten much attention is the use of liquid anhydrous ammonia (NH3). Liquid ammonia burns inside internal combustion engines without any CO2 emissions.
Ammonia is one of the most produced chemicals today and is primarily used in fertilizers for crops. Ammonia can also be recovered in significant quantities from the urine of farm livestock.
And, using ammonia as fuel is not a new concept. In 1869, Emile Lamm introduced the first ammonia-powered motor. Many other inventors would follow. In World War II, ammonia ran the buses in Belgium when fossil fuels were in short supply. Liquid anhydrous ammonia also ran the X-15 rocketplane.
In 2004, Zap Motors came out with a hydrogen fuel cell car that used an Ammonia Cracker to release the hydrogen to run the automobile. The Hydrogen Engine Center in Algona, Iowa has also developed an ammonia/hydrogen-fueled Oxx Power engine that burns cleanly.
Anhydrous ammonia can run in automobiles with few modifications and there is also a vast infrastructure partially in place for using this chemical in automobiles. On September 29 – 30, 2008, the Iowa Energy Center is holding the Ammonia As Fuel conference to talk about and make plans for this gasoline alternative.
Ammonia fuel is not as farfetched as it seems. There is more of a public relations issue holding it back from the transportation marketplace rather than significant technological challenges. Now is the time for people to get over the image of putting this “stinky chemical” in their cars and consider using anhydrous ammonia since it is far cheaper than the current price of gasoline.