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NETL and WVU engineers receive global award for transformational energy technology

A portrait of John Hu and Debangsu Bhattacharyya

A collaborative project between the National Energy Technology Laboratory and West Virginia University researchers John Hu and Debangsu Bhattacharyya has received the prestigious IChemE Global Award for the development of a revolutionary new microwave ammonia synthesis process that can utilize renewable electricity to make ammonia, a liquid energy carrier.


Hu and Bhattacharyya focused their efforts on microwave-specific catalyst development while NETL focused on implementing conducting reaction studies on the catalysts within its on-site microwave reactor.

Hu, Statler Chair in Engineering for Natural Gas Utilization, explained that the project takes advantage of unutilized “stranded” electricity from solar and wind farms and converts it into an energy-dense carbon-neutral liquid fuel. The cutting-edge technology developed by the researchers synthesizes ammonia from hydrogen and nitrogen using microwave catalysis approach.

“From an economic and environmental point of view, the technology of transforming renewable electricity to a carbon-neutral energy carrier has a strong impact to the region, nation and the world as well,” Hu said. “The technology can immediately solve the stranded renewable electricity issue.”

The fuel created can be stored for extended periods of time and is more easily and inexpensively transported, so it can be delivered and distributed more efficiently. That means these fuels offer a unique opportunity to reduce both the need for energy imports and carbon emissions from the energy sector.

“The success of the technology development can benefit not only the ammonia industry, but also other industries where small-scale distributed production mode is required,” Hu said.

With 21 categories, the IChemE Global Awards celebrate chemical, process and biochemical engineering excellence across the globe and are considered as the world’s most prestigious chemical engineering awards.

NETL took home the award in the category of research project for its potential to aid in agriculture, energy production and other applications while also lowering costs and overall energy use.

“The Statler College has a long tradition of conducting top-notch research,” said Xingbo Liu, interim associate dean of research. “This prestigious award is the newest testimony to this.”

This recognition is a testament to the continued expansion of the efforts between WVU’sCenter for Innovation in Gas Research and Utilization and NETL.



Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

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