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Biologically Inspired Ammonia Production with Immobilized Nitrogenase

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-SC0017845
Agency Tracking Number: 0000240893
Amount: $999,198.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: 08c
Solicitation Number: DE-FOA-0001795
Solicitation Year: 2018
Award Year: 2018
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2018-08-27
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2020-07-15
Small Business Information
615 Arapeen Drive Suite 310
Salt Lake City, UT 84108-1254
United States
DUNS: 078584999
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 John Watkins
 (801) 792-0652
Business Contact
 John Watkins
Phone: (801) 792-0652
Research Institution
  University of Utah
315 South 1400 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0090
United States

 () -
 Nonprofit College or University

Ammonia is a critical component of the US economy as US agricultural exports exceeded $100BB in 2015 and depend heavily on ammonia fertilizers. Ammonia production consumes 1% of the world’s total energy supply and millions of tons are imported each year. An innovative bioelectrocatalyzed process is being developed using immobilized mutated nitrogenase enzymes to directly convert atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia at standard conditions, 25° C and 1 atm, and without the need for natural gas. This technology utilizes an enhanced enzyme and advanced enzyme immobilization method for increased production efficiency. The Phase I project developed a new enzyme and polymer support structure which enables direct conversion of nitrogen to ammonia under mild conditions without the need for added chemicals; only electricity and water are required. The system exhibited significantly higher efficiency than competing technologies. The Phase II project will develop a commercial process for the enzyme/polymer system. This will include scaling up production of the enzyme and determining process conditions for maximum productivity. This technology is intended for the commercial fertilizer industry, which currently uses large, expensive plants for centralized production, consuming vast amounts of natural gas and generating significant CO2 pollution. This technology could also be used to generate alternative ammonia-based fuel and ammonia- based commodity chemicals. The Federal Government would benefit from this technology by reducing dependence on foreign imports, and increasing domestic production of a commodity chemical. Ammonia is used as key component in explosives and propellants and is essential for national security. Distributed production will lower the vulnerability of this resource. The key benefit for the customer is lower capital and operating cost. Building new ammonia production plants cost >$2BB with considerable infrastructure costs to ship the ammonia. The primary method of transportation is pipe to truck distribution, although some is still carried via railway. The feature that set our technology apart from the current Haber-Bosch process is the ability for low-cost distributed production.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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