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Enabling green ammonia as future transport fuel

Ammonia, a highly hydrogenated molecule, has been identified as an important means to support a transition to hydrogen economy, as it can be used to store and distribute hydrogen easily because of the already existing infrastructure for transport and storage of ammonia.

If hydrogen is to be extracted from ammonia at the point of use, the thermo-catalysis of ammonia back to hydrogen requires a high amount of energy. Preferably ammonia is used directly as a carbon-free liquid fuel for combustion engines in power generation, marine vessels and long-haul vehicles where batteries cannot be used due to their low energy density (hence large volume and weight), high cost and long charging times.

However, the significantly lower energy density (as measured by calorific value) of ammonia requires much larger fuel storage space and weight to be used. More importantly, the direct application of ammonia in combustion engines suffers from incomplete combustion and poor engine performance due to ammonia's higher ignition energy, higher auto-ignition temperature as well as significantly lower flame speed.

In order to address the aforementioned challenges of ammonia and hydrogen for their applications in transport, a new type of liquid ammonia blended with hydrogen will be researched and demonstrated in this project with advanced modelling and experimental techniques.

The proposed novel fuel has both ammonia and hydrogen molecules, and will enable

  1. immediate and wider use of carbon free ammonia and hydrogen in existing engines, particularly for long haul vehicles, marine vessels and power generators,
  2. significantly improved engine performance and lower emissions through increased energy density, faster and complete combustion.

Therefore, the developed liquid ammonia blended with hydrogen would enable an immediate, cost-effective and 100% reduction in CO2 emissions to achieve net zero target in long haul transport, shipping, and power generation sectors by and beyond 2050 that will be difficult to achieve with existing technologies in use or in development.

The transformation from conventional hydrocarbon fuels to carbon-free hydrogen and ammonia fuels through the proposed concept will enable cost-effective net zero growth in a range of industries, including automotive, marine, aviation and power industries, engine and propulsion system suppliers, and renewable energy and fuel industries.

The project will improve the UK knowledge and skills base and directly benefit:

  1. automotive, light aviation and marine industries;
  2. suppliers of combustion propulsion systems including combustion engines and gas turbines;
  3. Renewable energy usage and fuel industries;
  4. Relevant academia in a range of disciplines/research areas, including combustion propulsion systems, ammonia/hydrogen, fundamental combustion, numerical modelling, optical/laser diagnostics of spray and combustion.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Xinyan Wang - Dr Xinyan Wang is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow on advanced fuel and propulsion technologies for future low carbon and zero carbon transport. He graduated with a Master and a PhD degree in State Key Laboratory of Engines (SKLE), Tianjin University, China. Then he moved to Brunel University London as a Research Assistant at Centre for Advanced Powertrain and Fuels in 2015. His research interests include the modelling and experimental studies of renewable and bio fuels, advanced combustion processes, and novel hybrid powertrains for high-efficiency and low/zero emission transport.  He has been involved in a number of projects supported by UKRI, EPSRC, Innovate UK and EU, as well as industry, to develop next generation fuels, high efficiency engines and hybrid powertrain systems to significantly reduce CO2 and pollutant emissions from transport sector. He was recently awarded the prestigious UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship to work on advanced renewable fuels, multi-fuel combustion engines and integrated engine generators for future low carbon transport. He works closely with research partners from both academia (UCL, Imperial College and University of Oxford, Brighton University, University of Nottingham, Tianjin University) and industry (BP, Shell, MAHLE Powertrain, Ferrari S.p.A. and Yuchai Machinery Co.,Ltd). He has authored over 40 refereed papers and given over 10 presentations at several national and international conferences/workshops. He is the member of the Combustion Institute and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International and a reviewer for a number of high-impact journals and conference proceedings.

Related Research Group(s)


Advanced Powertrain and Fuels - We have particular strengths in improving the efficiency and reducing energy cost of existing engines through developing low temperature combustion processes and their controls and regenerative braking, as well as unique methodologies for the study of fuels and engines.

Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 16/03/2022