Study of a gliding arc discharge for sustainable nitrogen fixation into NOx
With the growth of the world population, the agricultural sector is required to meet an increasing demand for nutrients and currently relies on industrially produced fertilizers. Among them, nitrogen-based fertilizers are the most common choice and require N2 to be converted into more reactive molecules in a process called “nitrogen fixation”. This is mainly performed through the Haber-Bosch process, which, is not ideal since it requires large-scale facilities to be economical and is associated with a high energy cost and high CO2 emissions, resulting in an environmental impact that is pushing for the study of greener alternatives. Among these, plasma-based nitrogen fixation into NOx is promising, and gliding arc plasma, specifically, proved to be suitable for nitrogen fixation. This thesis aims to study plasma-based nitrogen fixation focusing on an atmospheric pressure gliding arc plasma on three different levels. On a fundamental level, an approach dealing with laser-based excitation of separate rotational lines was successfully developed. This method can be implemented on atmospheric discharges that produce rather high NOx densities and, thus, can impose essential restrictions for the use of "classical" laser-induced fluorescence methods. The approach is then implemented, providing a discussion on the two-dimensional distributions of both the gas temperature and the NO ground state density. A clear correlation between these quantities is found and the effects of both the gas temperature and the plasma power on NO and NO2 concentrations are discussed, revealing how the NO oxidation is already significant in the plasma afterglow region and how the gas flow rate is a crucial parameter affecting the temperature gradients. >From a technological level, the conventional approach of introducing external resistors to stabilize the arc is challenged by studying both its performance and its stability replacing the external resistor with an inductor. We conclude that similar stabilization results can be obtained while significantly lowering the overall energy cost, which decreased from up to a maximum of 7.9 MJ/mol N to 3 MJ/mol N. Finally, we study whether a small-scale fertilizer production facility based on a gliding arc plasma can be a local competitive alternative. This is done by proposing a comparative model to understand how capital, operative expenditures and transport costs affect the production costs. The model highlights how, with the current best available technology, plasma-based nitrogen fixation, while being an interesting alternative for NOx synthesis, still requires a more efficient use of H2 for direct NH3 production.
Mons : Université de Mons & Universiteit Antwerpen , 2024
xxiv, 114 p.
Supervisor: Snyders, Rony [Supervisor]
Supervisor: Bogaerts, Annemie [Supervisor]
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Creation 22.04.2024
Last edited 23.04.2024
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