Inspired by a vision for a future economy powered by carbon neutral ammonia, new start-up Jupiter Ionics Pty Ltd is the latest company to emerge from a growing stream of enterprises aligned with Monash University’s Technology Precinct.
For over a century, ammonia has been produced industrially using the Haber-Bosch process, which contributes heavily to global carbon emissions. Scientists at Monash University recently found a more environmentally friendly way, with technology that uses an electrochemical process to produce ammonia by reducing nitrogen extracted from the air and combining it with hydrogen extracted from water, with power provided by renewable electricity.
Jupiter Ionics Pty Ltd has successfully secured an exclusive licence to develop the patented technology first invented by Sir John Monash Distinguished Professor, Doug Macfarlane and Dr Alexandr Simonov from Monash University’s School of Chemistry.
It also recently closed a seed round of financing of $2.5M AUD to support the development of this world-leading electrochemical technology for the production of green ammonia.
Ammonia is an essential ingredient in the global food system through its role in fertiliser production, but current technology typically produces around two tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of ammonia produced.
“Jupiter Ionics Pty Ltd’s technology, exclusively licenced from Monash University, uses renewable electricity, air and water as inputs to make ammonia with zero carbon emissions,” said the start-up’s CEO, Dr Charlie Day.
“The Monash team that developed the technology is internationally recognised as being on the cutting-edge of electrochemical ammonia technology.”
The team’s world-first discovery was published earlier this year in Science.
“Ammonia is recognised as a key challenge for global decarbonisation efforts, such as those that were discussed extensively at the recent COP26 meeting in Glasgow,” said Jupiter Ionics Pty Ltd co-founder and co-inventor of the technology, Professor Macfarlane, who is also doing groundbreaking work on lithium ion batteries.
“Our recent breakthroughs have opened up a new avenue to produce Green Ammonia which has several significant advantages over alternative approaches.”
Jupiter Ionics Pty Ltd will use the $2.5M AUD investment to transition the technology from the lab to a commercially scalable device that can service a range of end users.
“The current global market for ammonia is worth around $70B USD, but proposed new uses for Green Ammonia as a shipping fuel and a form of energy storage mean it could be many multiples of that in the future,” Dr Day said.
“This investment will enable us to fast track our development program so we are well-positioned to meet the burgeoning demand.
“Australia’s abundant reserves of renewable energy position us very well to play a leading role in the shift to a low carbon future.”
Monash Innovation Senior Director, Dr Alastair Hick, said the innovation ecosystem around the University was growing in depth and breadth, as new spinouts such as Jupiter Ionics Pty Ltd attracted new investors and entrepreneurs.
“This is a long-term vision for the University, and whilst we’re thrilled with the portfolio of spin outs we have already, we see plenty more potential in the pipeline,” Dr Hick said.
The research team that developed the technology received grant funding from a range of sources including the Australian Research Council, the Australian Centre for Electromaterials Science and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The seed investment round was supported by local angel investors with experience in the food and clean energy sectors, alongside the specialist Agtech VC fund Tenacious Ventures.