Monash Uni startup Jupiter Ionics raises $9 million for green ammonia technology

Monash Uni startup Jupiter Ionics raises $9 million for green ammonia technology

Jupiter Ionics co-founder and chief scientific officer (CSO) Professor Douglas MacFarlane with The MacFarlane Simonov Ammonia Cell.

With a patented electrolytic cell developed by researchers at Monash University for producing "green ammonia" from renewable energy sources, Jupiter Ionics has raised $9 million in a Series A round to fund further development of the technology as a scalabe solution in the transition towards a carbon-neutral future.

Professor Douglas MacFarlane and Dr Alexandr (Sasha) Simonov founded Jupiter Ionics in 2021 to commercialise the product of years of research, utilising nitrogen from the air together with hydrogen produced by the electrolysis of water to produce the "green ammonia".

The 'MacFarlane Simonov Ammonia Cell' is named after the company's founders and is the first of its kind to demonstrate ammonia generation with 100 per cent selectivity, along with good stability in testing.

Most of the ammonia produced globally is used for agriculture, enabled by the Haber Bosch process invented in the early 20th century which has been so impactful that it has been estimated around half the world's population wouldn't have enough food without it.

But this traditional method is also very energy-intensive and involves natural gas or the gasification of carbon sources like coal, peat, oil and waste. The production of ammonia accounts for approximately 3 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

A successful implementation of an ammonia based on renewable energy would potentially cut this figure, notwithstanding the ongoing problem of excessive nitrogen in the atmosphere and the detrimental impact on ecosystems from nitrogen in run-off, as explored in the a column by two University of Queensland researchers. 

But the target market for Jupiter Ionics is not just agriculture but also the broader hydrogen industry that faces immense challenges when it comes to how renewable energy stored via this method can be transported safely and even shipped overseas. 

It is thus no surprise that major industrials players have participated in the Series A including CIMIC Group and Wesfarmers Chemicals, Energy & Fertilisers, although $4 million of the total came from Breakthrough Victoria whose remit is to invest for impact with portfolio companies commercialising new innovations and technology.

Existing investors Tenacious Ventures, Monash Investment Holdings, JCVC and Olabella also participated in the round.

The Jupiter Ionics team.
The Jupiter Ionics team is based at Monash University.

 

The company reports funding will go towards accelerating the scale up of a self-contained system that takes in water, air and renewable energy and produces ammonia.

"We’ve made great strides over our first few years as a company, and this investment will help us integrate our technology into larger prototypes and accelerate our path to market," says Jupiter Ionics CEO Dr Charlie Day.

"Jupiter Ionics is proud of its origins in one of Victoria’s world-class universities, and energised by the impact we can deliver both within Australia and globally. We are therefore delighted that Breakthrough Victoria has decided to support our ongoing mission to accelerate the transition to a net-zero future."

Breakthrough Victoria CEO Grant Dooley says the organisation is excited to invest in Jupiter Ionics and its mission to make ammonia production more sustainable and decarbonise agricultural production systems.

"This investment aligns with our commitment to supporting innovative solutions that address both environmental and economic challenges and represents an important sovereign capability for Australian agriculture," he says.

Monash University CCO and Jupiter Board member Alastair Hick says accelerating the scaling up of green ammonia production with innovating technologies has never been more critical.

“Jupiter Ionics is making great progress towards achieving a significant global impact and we’re delighted to be part of that,” he says.

"Production of carbon-neutral, green ammonia is key to enabling ammonia-fuelled transport and the export of renewable energy. This capital raise is a positive step towards commercialising Jupiter Ionics’ electrochemical technology," adds CIMIC Group executive chairman Juan Santamaria.

Victorian Minister for Economic Growth, Tim Pallas, says the investment will support jobs for Victorians and technology to reduce emissions.

"Jupiter Ionics is a fantastic example of the exciting work being done by Victorian businesses right across our state," he says.

The funding comes a year after Jupiter Ionics’ technology was recognised by a range of leading international bodies, including the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Nature Awards spinoff prize.


Diagram of how the MacFarlane Simonov Ammonia Cell works.
Diagram of how the MacFarlane Simonov Ammonia Cell works.

Extract from Jupiter Ionics:

"As shown in the diagram above, we feed nitrogen to one side of our cell and water to the other side. Hydrogen atoms are stripped off the water molecules in the form of positively charged protons (shown as H+ in the diagram), which are then transported across the cell. On the other side of the cell they are combined with Nitrogen atoms to form ammonia (NH3). The reaction is not spontaneous and must be driven by a source of energy. In our system that energy is expected to be provided by renewable electricity. In those circumstances, there are no CO2 emissions associated with the production of ammonia, which can therefore be termed “Green Ammonia”. We extract this Green Ammonia from the cell, which can be stored as a liquid under moderate pressures for use in a range of applications."


 

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