PATH: Feasibility of Developing Self Sustainable-Ammonia Power Houses

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Ohio University

*Gerardine G. Botte, Principal Investigator
*Daniel Castro, Co-Principal Investigator
*Scott Miller, Co-Principal Investigator

Starts: September 1, 2005
Expires: August 31, 2008


Investigators are working on the development of a new technology that can produce hydrogen on demand through the electrolysis of ammonia (ammonia electrolytic cell-AEC), and its implementation to generate power for residential housing.

A 36-month program is proposed to provide the fundamental information required for designing, constructing, optimizing, and scaling up an AEC that will significantly contribute to the energy requirements of residential houses. The other objective of this application is to develop a teaching curriculum designed to educate engineering students and community members (users) on the fundamental principles of fuel cell technology and house energy efficiency.

The project proposes the following specific aims:

1. Assess the technical, economical, structural and safety implications of the use of the technology (solar cell/AEC/proton exchange membrane fuel cell) in residential houses. This will be achieved by optimizing the performance of a bench-scale AEC, estimating the costs of scaling up the cell to the residential housing settings, evaluating the safety implications of the use of the proposed technology in a house, and laying out the appropriate location of the system.

2. Design a series of seminars to train the community about the use of the technology for residential applications. The focus of these seminars will be to increase awareness and seek feedback about hurdles that must be overcome in order for the technology to be practical, affordable and reliable in a residential setting. Surveying the community and implementing focus group meetings are part of the methodology to achieve this aim. Different models developed during the seminars will be posted to a website for the project, with the intention of reaching out to a broader audience.

3. Develop an introductory course in applied electrochemistry for sustainable construction. This proposal will assess the feasibility of using an ammonia electrolytic cell for generating power in residential houses. The primary motivations for this project center on the benefits to be derived by addressing current house energy issues, which are high operating costs, dependence on nonrenewable energy sources and high potential for greenhouse gas production and global warming.

Currently, several new threats underlie two other factors that can be added to this list of motivations:

  1. Potential security crises resulting from intentional attacks that could force power plant shutdowns.
  2. The inflexibility of fuel supply and costs due to global political unrest and international oil market volatility.

All these issues could be addressed by constructing self-sustainable houses (independent of the grid) powered by renewable energy sources (e.g., solar panels) in combination with an AEC and hydrogen fuel cells. The significance of this project is quite far-reaching.

In the educational field, the project will engage the housing-community in learning about the use of sustainable energy and fuel cell technologies. If the feasibility of the new technology proves successful for residential housing, the national, environmental, and security implications will be enormous. First, CO2 emissions from the housing sector to the environment will be reduced by up to 42 percent. Second, national security will be enhanced through a reliable power source for American homes, making them less susceptible to intentional attacks. In a larger perspective, the technology could be extended to use fertilizer run-offs, farm run-offs and waste water-all of which contain ammonia as fuels-to provide power for America’s homes.

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