Awards Registry

Non-Equilibrium Plasma for Energy-Efficient Nitrogen Fixation
Profile last edited on: 2/28/2022

Program
SBIR
Agency
DOE
Total Award Amount
$500,000
Award Phase
2
Principal Investigator
Joshua McEnaney
Activity Indicator

Company Information

Nitricity Inc

3450 3rd Street Suite 3F
San Francisco, CA 94124
   (607) 242-3338
   N/A
   www.nitricity.co
Multiple Locations:   
Congressional District:   12
County:   Santa Clara

Phase I

Phase I year
2021
Phase I Amount
$256,580
Nitricity is developing a technology that produces nitrogen fertilizer using inputs of air, water, and renewable electricity. If successful, this technology has the potential to economically decarbonize fertilizer production from the Haber-Bosch process, which is a $68B global market and gigaton CO2eq/yr mitigation opportunity. Our team has developed a plasma-based process that couples with on-farm solar and irrigation to produce nitrate-based fertilizer directly where it is needed. This process first oxidizes nitrogen and then absorbs nitrogen oxides in water as nitrates. We have already installed a solar-fertilizer pilot on a farm in California’s Central Valley, which is successfully supporting tomato and broccoli crops. Our current reactor uses a high-temperature plasma and our present-day efficiencies permit us to sell fertilizer in high-value, irrigable fertilizer markets. However, we have identified a step-change research and development direction for our plasma reactor that would immensely magnify the economic and environmental potential of our approach. In this proposal, we outline a detailed R&D pathway focused on the development of a non-thermal plasma reactor. Literature and modeling analysis suggest that we can achieve an energy efficiency ten times better than our present values, and better than that of the well-known Haber-Bosch process. Ultimately, this technology has the opportunity to reduce US fertilizer and natural gas imports, improve energy efficiency of nitrogen fixation, and reduce emissions on an immense scale.

Phase II

Phase II year
2021 (last award dollars: 2021)
Phase II Amount
$243,420
Nitricity is developing a technology that produces nitrogen fertilizer using inputs of air, water, and renewable electricity. If successful, this technology has the potential to economically decarbonize fertilizer production from the Haber-Bosch process, which is a $68B global market and gigaton CO2eq/yr mitigation opportunity. Our team has developed a plasma-based process that couples with on-farm solar and irrigation to produce nitrate-based fertilizer directly where it is needed. This process first oxidizes nitrogen and then absorbs nitrogen oxides in water as nitrates. We have already installed a solar-fertilizer pilot on a farm in California’s Central Valley, which is successfully supporting tomato and broccoli crops. Our current reactor uses a high-temperature plasma and our present-day efficiencies permit us to sell fertilizer in high-value, irrigable fertilizer markets. However, we have identified a step-change research and development direction for our plasma reactor that would immensely magnify the economic and environmental potential of our approach. In this proposal, we outline a detailed R&D pathway focused on the development of a non-thermal plasma reactor. Literature and modeling analysis suggest that we can achieve an energy efficiency ten times better than our present values, and better than that of the well-known Haber-Bosch process. Ultimately, this technology has the opportunity to reduce US fertilizer and natural gas imports, improve energy efficiency of nitrogen fixation, and reduce emissions on an immense scale.