Ammonia as a Hydrogen Storage Medium

»AMMONPAKTOR«: An Innovative Compact Reactor Concept

The »AMMONPAKTOR« project (»Utilization of Ammonia as Carbon Dioxide-Free Hydrogen Storage for the Decentralized Supply of Hydrogen – Development of an Innovative Compact Reactor Concept«) aims at making ammonia available as an energy storage for hydrogen. Together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Microengineering and Microsystems IMM, we are creating important foundations for this at the Fraunhofer ITWM.

Ammonia is a gaseous hydrogen-nitrogen compound (NH3), which is mainly used in the production of fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, or even explosives. The potential of ammonia as an energy carrier is currently being researched in many places, and scientists expect it to play a key role in climate-friendly energy supply. One particularly interesting aspect is the possibility of using ammonia as a storage medium for »green hydrogen«. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has defined hydrogen technologies as one of its strategic research fields.

Power-to-X: Hydrogen as the Key to Greater Sustainability

Economic sectors such as transportation, logistics, or the manufacturing industry currently still mainly cover their enormously high energy requirements using fossil fuels. Alternatives are Power-to-X fuels, which serve as energy carriers for renewable energies. »Power-to-X« in this context means the process of converting electricity (power) into other substances (X).

Hydrogen is currently considered the most important fuel of this type. But before hydrogen can be used on a large scale, hurdles in transportation and storage must be overcome. Ammonia is seen as the key to making the required hydrogen easily storable and transportable. 

In the project »AMMONPAKTOR«, solution concepts for a timely and logistically more feasible provision of hydrogen are being investigated. The aim is to develop a refueling module based on innovative catalyst technology and microstructured reactor technology that then produces hydrogen from ammonia for filling stations for use in fuel cell vehicles. A demonstration unit – consisting of hydrogen production, gas processing, and conversion to electricity in a fuel cell – is to be developed.

Collaboration of different departments and divisions for an innovative reactor concept.
© Fraunhofer ITWM
Collaboration of different divisions and departments for an innovative reactor concept.

Fraunhofer Institutes Conduct Joint Research

Researchers at Fraunhofer IMM in Mainz are developing ammonia-based systems for mobile and decentralized energy supply. At our institute, we are developing a proposal for an optimal reactor that makes the production of hydrogen from green ammonia efficient. Three departments are collaborating on this digital twin:

  • The »Flow and Material Simulation« department performs detailed simulations of the reaction, taking into account the catalyst layer and distribution in individual channels.
  • The »Transport Processes« department simulates an effective model of the entire reactor.
  • The »Optimization« division manages the project and designs the chemical plant.

Innovative Reactor Concept

The aim of the work at our institute is the virtualization of reactor design and operation management. We develop a methodical approach for modeling the overall process and include different modeling scales: The processes in the reactor are represented by a simulation of the reactive flow; the results are calibrated with measurement data in a next step. This leads to a reliable model that enables the shape of the reactor to be optimized and the operation to be optimized. The aim is to adapt the reactor's mode of operation to the respective conditions in the best possible way.

The collaboration with Fraunhofer IMM combines their expertise with our detailed simulation calculations – there is still a considerable need for research in this area in order to realize the industrial application of hydrogen as an energy carrier. If the project succeeds, we will make a further contribution to accelerating the energy transition.

Project Funding and Duration

The project »Utilization of ammonia as carbon dioxide-free hydrogen storage for the decentralized provision of hydrogen – development of an innovative compact reactor concept« is funded by the ERDF program Rhineland-Palatinate »Competence Building«. The European Union has provided additional funding under this funding line to support crisis management related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its social consequences, and to prepare for a green, digital and stable recovery of the economy.

The project ran until June 30, 2023.

Förderbescheid Übergabe AMMONPAKTOR
© Fraunhofer IMM
Ministerial Director Daniel Stich presented the funding notification in the amount of 2,702,438 euros to Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Küfer, head of the division »Optimization« at Fraunhofer ITWM, and to Dr. Gunter Kolb, head of the division »Energy« at the Fraunhofer IMM; on the left side Prof. Dr. Michael Maskos, head of Fraunhofer IMM.