Sunborne Systems has successfully conducted its first operational test of ammonia reactor technology, surpassing all expectations.
Founded in 2021 by Reaction Engines, the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), and cleantech venture investor Kiko Ventures, Sunborne Systems embarked on a mission to develop innovative ammonia-reactor technology. This technology is aimed at enabling the conversion of existing power systems in challenging-to-decarbonize sectors into zero-carbon solutions.
The recent test program carried out at Reaction Engines’ facility in the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire, achieved remarkable results. It demonstrated that Sunborne’s ammonia reactor technology can operate at a scale comparable to standard internal combustion engines (ICE). This breakthrough has opened doors for the use of this technology in light vehicles and mobile generator units, with the potential for further scaling to maritime and industrial applications.
At the heart of Sunborne’s technology is the reactor, which transforms stored liquid ammonia into a customized blend of hydrogen, nitrogen, and uncracked ammonia in real time. The test program showed that this technology can produce a fuel blend capable of powering a 56 kW (75 bhp) engine, similar to what you’d find in a small vehicle or mobile generator unit. The results indicated a high level of thermal efficiency, suggesting the possibility of scaling this technology for higher energy output internal combustion engine systems and various industrial power applications.
Dr. James Barth, co-founder and CEO of Sanborn Systems, expressed his excitement about the results, saying, “The potential impact of our technology is unprecedented, with significant potential to partner with major engine OEMs and bring a fuel revolution to drive the transition to net zero.”
What makes Sunborne’s technology even more intriguing is that it leverages ammonia, a widely traded commodity and a carbon-free source of energy. As hydrogen production facilities expand worldwide, ammonia is set to become even more significant. Sunborne initially focuses on the maritime industry, which is at the forefront of decarbonizing internal combustion engines. However, the applications of this technology could extend to industries such as power generation and large heavy equipment, offering substantial potential in collaboration with gas turbine technology.
Professor Bill David, co-founder and CSO of Sunborne Systems highlighted the importance of ammonia in achieving a net-zero transition due to its lack of carbon. He stated, “This test confirms that our technology operates at an already relevant scale with existing engine architectures. It is also a technology that asserts that we do not need to turn our backs on the existing two billion internal combustion engines, hundreds of thousands of gas turbines, and gigawatts of industrial burners worldwide.”