3D printing approaches for electrochemical conversion of nitrogen to ammonia

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is a family of techniques that enable the fabrication of a solid object from a computer- aided design (CAD). 3D printing is becoming increasingly dominant in the field of advanced material processing and applications. Many of the traditional techniques tend to be time consuming and complex, requiring specialist equipment and training, as well as being hard to reproduce. Consequently, manufacturing costs escalate with increasing design complexity, making iterative designs financially wasteful and part- production times lengthy. On the other hand, 3D printing provides materials chemists and engineers with the ability to design, prototype and print geometrically complex functional devices that integrate electroactive, photoactive and catalytic functionalities. This, in principle, will allow precise manipulation of the structure and geometry of a device to define and control its final performance in various applications including electrochemical conversion of nitrogen to ammonia.

From nurturing living organisms to feeding billions of people, the transformation of nitrogen to ammonia is essential for many eco-systems and industrial processes. However, the industrial production of ammonia is very energy intensive (2% of global energy consumption), requiring high temperature (500C) and pressure (in excess of 500 atmospheres), and very pure raw materials; it is also eco-destructive (creating more than 900 million tonnes of CO2 by-product per year), costly and requires considerable plant infrastructure. As such, there is an immediate need to develop alternative green and cost-effective processes for ammonia production. On the other hand, ammonia can be produced at room temperature by electrochemical synthesis. However, at present, there is no synthetic heterogeneous electrocatalyst that can produce NH3 in significant yields. Recent advances in designing electrocatalysts and methods for conversion of nitrogen to ammonia demand for 3D printing approaches to integrate electrocatalysts into high-performance devices.

The host of this project, Particles and Catalysis Research Group (PARTCAT), is a leading (photo(electro)) catalysis research group within the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). Building on their development, this PhD project will focus on fabrication and testing of novel 3D structures containing electrocatalysts for ammonia production and development of selective and high-performance devices.


Supervisors: Prof. Rose Amal and Dr. Ali Jalili

Associate supervisor: Prof. Douglas MacFarlane - Monash University

For more information contact r.amal@unsw.edu.au and ali.jalili@unsw.edu.au