The concept of using ammonia as a fuel source in internal combustion engines has gained attention in recent years. Toyota, known for its alternative energy ideas, has been exploring the use of ammonia as a potential fuel for its vehicles. The company has collaborated with Chinese automaker GAC Motor to develop an engine that runs on ammonia and produces power without carbon dioxide emissions from the tailpipe. This project has sparked discussions about the viability of ammonia as a fuel source.
Ammonia, which consists of one nitrogen molecule and three hydrogen molecules, is primarily known for its use as a fertilizer in the agricultural sector. However, it has also been investigated as a high-quality energy carrier and a carbon-free fuel for internal combustion engines. The production process of ammonia is currently not considered “green,” as it is derived from gaseous hydrogen produced from hydrocarbons. Research is being conducted to find ways to produce green ammonia, and the chemical and physical properties of ammonia as a fuel are being studied to evaluate its potential benefits and drawbacks in combustion systems.
Using pure ammonia as a fuel in internal combustion engines requires high boost pressure and compression ratio to compensate for the low ammonia flame speed. In spark-ignition engines, adding hydrogen to ammonia can improve combustion efficiency. GAC, the Chinese partner to Toyota, has developed a 2.0-liter I-4 engine that runs on ammonia and reportedly produces around 161 horsepower with a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to conventional fuels. However, there are challenges associated with using ammonia as a fuel, including its toxicity and the need for proper handling and safety measures.
Aside from automotive applications, ammonia engines are also being explored in the maritime industry. MAN Energy Solutions aims to develop a two-stroke ammonia engine for large-scale container ships by 2024. This initiative is part of the company’s efforts to establish a greener shipping industry by utilizing synthetic fuels like green ammonia.
While the concept of ammonia engines shows promise as a potential alternative to traditional internal combustion engines, it is important to address safety concerns and develop sustainable methods for producing ammonia to ensure its viability as a fuel source. Continued research and development in this area will contribute to the ongoing efforts to find sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions for transportation and energy production.