On April 25, 2022, Hydrofuel Canada Inc completed an exclusive license agreement with Georgia Tech for the patent-pending Micro Ammonia Production System (MAPS), which enables high-yield, sustainable ammonia synthesis from air and water with unprecedented efficiency using a gas-phase electrochemical process.
The company plans to combine MAPS with its Green Ammonia and Hydrogen Separation Module to produce green hydrogen from ammonia - potentially leading to more affordable, sustainable products for agriculture and other industries.
The license agreement has led to a critical next step: MAPS co-inventor Dr. Reza Nazemi and Hydrofuel are entering into a Collaborative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) beginning in July 2022 with Colorado State University to complete a commercial pilot demonstration of the technology. The recent license and subsequent developments are poised to contribute to the growth of the innovative Canadian company as well as impact the future of a sustainable-energy economy.
"Georgia Tech has a rich history of developing innovations with a potential to have significant impact. Marketing these innovations and identifying qualified licensees is vital to unlocking their value." said Dr. Kashmira Kulkarni, Licensing Associate in the Office of Technology Licensing at Georgia Tech.
The technology: Low-cost, renewable energy production
The MAPS ammonia production technology uses hollow hybrid plasmonic nanocages to create a highly effective electrocatalyst for ammonia synthesis from nitrogen and electrolyzed water. It functions under ambient temperatures and pressure in the gas- and liquid-phase system. Ammonia is a significant energy carrier and is an essential ingredient in fertilizer production globally, making the technology applicable to many agricultural practices. MAPS provides a sustainable and environmentally friendly production method that enables a high ammonia yield rate with unprecedented energy efficiency. The technology decentralizes the production of ammonia while consuming significantly less energy than current methods, so it could also be used to enable local or on-site production with renewable electricity sources and long-term energy storage.
The licensee: Significant strides in green ammonia and hydrogen solutions
Based in Mississauga, Ontario, Hydrofuel is focused on providing low-cost, last-mile green ammonia and hydrogen solutions to customers in industries ranging from agriculture to electricity. The company reached an agreement to acquire Kontak LLC in November 2021, and their low-cost high efficiency hydrogen separation from ammonia modules and other proprietary technologies that include modular re-fueling stations for hydrogen and electric vehicle charging. The license of MAPS is the latest addition to the company's innovation portfolio, adding new capabilities to Hydrofuel's over 40 years of experience in the field.
The impact of technology transfer
Georgia Tech's Office of Technology Licensing promotes promising Tech innovations to applicable industries to spur commercialization - taking technology from the lab to markets where it can have the most impact. The office's approach includes forward-thinking social media marketing using appropriate channels to target potential licensees. These efforts, along with support from Georgia Research Alliance, set the groundwork that enabled Hydrofuel to identify MAPS as a key technological link in its goal toward producing green hydrogen from ammonia at low cost.
With the license agreement in place, Hydrofuel is poised for growth. The company plans to hire at least 12 new employees to support technology development using MAPS, and six Ph.D. students will be deployed for the University of Colorado CRADA to develop and demonstrate a commercial proof of concept. This work is in addition to continued research and development (R&D) under the leadership of Dr. Nazemi.
"The impact of this technology transfer begins with this license agreement, but that's not the end," said Dr. Nazemi. "It has made the next phase of R&D possible and is very likely to lead to further improvements in the MAPS system in combination with Hydrofuel's technology, and even re-start discussions with energy companies who took notice of this innovation early on."
Hydrofuel's commercialization efforts for MAPS focus on extracting the most value from liquid fuels.
"Half of the energy of liquid fuels is currently lost between the well head and the fuel pump," noted Hydrofuel CEO Greg Vezina. "The beauty of MAPS is that it lowers the production costs - less than any conventional or renewable hydrocarbon - which would allow more industries to look at green hydrogen and even allow up to 90% of the world's countries to produce their own energy at a lower cost than imports. There is no question that this is a global game changer."
Technology development and pilot demonstrations at University of Colorado are expected to last at least two years, followed by the first phase of commercial rollouts. Hydrofuel expects to target agriculture and mining industries initially, as well as potentially off-road/dedicated fleet transportation (e.g., converting diesel trucks to run on ammonia and hydrogen). These industries could serve to further de-risk the technology from a commercial standpoint before the company expands into electricity and community energy markets.
Hydrofuel® is a registered trademark of Hydrofuel Canada Inc.
On April 25, 2022, Hydrofuel Canada Inc completed an exclusive license agreement with Georgia Tech for the patent-pending Micro Ammonia Production System (MAPS).