When novel methods of reactive nitrogen synthesis were invented in the early 20th century, they laid the groundwork for the coming green revolution, where a growing population was sustained by a rapidly increasing agricultural output. Consequently, the epithet of today’s nitrogen fertiliser production, the Haber-Bosch process, is considered one of the most important discoveries of the previous century. The Haber-Bosch process has been tremendously successful, in part because of how close it can operate to its theoretical efficiency limit. An achievement that depends on, and has long benefited from, fossil coal and gas. The Haber-Bosch process is therefore bound by both a theoretical limit and a dependency on fossil resources to maintain its efficiency, leaving significant improvements in the technology’s past.
Hence, one of Haber-Bosch’s precursors has gained renewed attention: the Birkeland-Eyde process. Developed by Kristian Birkeland in 1903, the process relies on electricity and air alone to generate an electric arc, in essence an air plasma, with the ability to form reactive nitrogen for fertiliser production. The process was discontinued because of its high energy consumption, but advances in plasma science have rejuvenated the concept and the plasma process is now a serious contender for the future of nitrogen fertiliser production.
N2 Applied is at the forefront of this development, working together with renowned research institutions to improve the efficiency of plasma nitrogen-fixation (which, theoretically, is lower than that of the Haber-Bosch process). The coming years will reveal more of the technology’s true potential and impact, but the current research and development indicate that the N2 process is equipped with agronomic and environmental benefits that will make it a viable alternative long before the theoretical energy efficiency of the Haber-Bosch process is surpassed.
The webinar details the steps of the N2 process; its potential benefits and supporting evidence, and present the six pilot N2-units currently operating on farms across Northern Europe.