Optimizing Ammonia Separation via Reactive Absorption for Sustainable Ammonia Synthesis

Matthew J. Kale, Deepak K. Ojha, Sayandeep Biswas, Joshua I. Militti, Alon V. Mccormick, Jeffrey H. Schott, Paul J. Dauenhauer, E. L. Cussler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Metal halide salts such as magnesium chloride have been demonstrated to be promising candidates for ammonia storage materials for energy storage and agriculture applications due to their ability to incorporate several moles of ammonia per mole of salt. Ammonia exiting a synthesis reactor can be separated from nitrogen and hydrogen by absorption into magnesium chloride. Such an absorption can be more complete and hotter than separation via ammonia condensation, the current standard in the Haber-Bosch process. Here, we discuss the optimal conditions for the cyclic uptake and release of ammonia from the supported magnesium chloride absorbents. An automated system was designed for measuring the nonequilibrium working capacity of the absorbent, as well as the impact of important operating conditions such as absorption and desorption temperature, pressure, and desorption time. Measurements of absorption and desorption kinetics provide insight into the mechanisms involved. The temperatures and pressures during absorption and desorption were designed to use minimal energy input to maximize the uptake and release of ammonia within a reasonable amount of time. In a laboratory-scale bed, absorption has a small unused bed length, so it is largely independent of mass transfer; it is dominated by how fast ammonia is fed to the bed. On the other hand, desorption is restricted both by the speed of heating the bed and by diffusion out of the absorbent. These measurements provide guidelines for ammonia separations and cycling sorbent materials on a larger scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2576-2584
Number of pages9
JournalACS Applied Energy Materials
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 23 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded in part by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), U.S. Department of Energy, under award no. DE-AR0000804, and in part by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR/ML 2015, CH 76, SEC 2, SUBD 07A). Other support came from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) at the University of Minnesota. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society.


  • ammonia
  • energy storage
  • magnesium chloride
  • sorbent cycling
  • sustainable


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