Powering the world without carbon
cell that can convert renewable electricity into ammonia without causing carbon emissions could be the sustainable answer to meeting energy needs around the world. A typical fuel cell uses the energy stored in chemical bonds to make electricity, but the one Douglas MacFarlane—a chemist at Monash University in suburban Melbourne—is working on, operates in reverse. Nitrogen, water and electricity is supplied to the fuel cell while it silently exhales gaseous ammonia, without the heat, pressure, and carbon emissions usually required to make the chemical. It effectively bottles sunshine and wind, and turns them into a commodity that can be shipped easily and converted back into electricity or hydrogen gas to power fuel cell vehicles.