Innovators hope to turn waste to fertilizer

01 July 2008 23:50  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Two small Illinois companies were recently awarded a $1m (€630,000) federal grant and hope to revolutionise the way nitrogen fertilizer is made, one of the innovators said on Tuesday.

The grant, from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), will provide funding to do research on a process derived from N-Ovation and Fluidic MicroControls, two small US midwest companies, which claim they can derive nitrogen from a gas created by cooking crop residue.

Rod Fritze, president of N-Ovation, said the prototype takes the gas created by cooking farm waste, then uses a spark of electricity to turn the gas into nitric acid.

Afterwards, a small amount of anhydrous ammonia is blended with the nitric acid to form a liquid ammonium nitrate solution, Fritze said.

The end goal, Fritze said, is to have a machine on a farm that easily and cost-effectively turns farm waste and crop residue into nitrogen fertilizer. Fritze said hopes each machine is eventually capable of providing enough fertilizer to sustain a 1,000 acre farm.

“I would say within a year we would have our first efficient prototype running,” Fritze said.

Fritze’s technology is a modern spin on an old idea. In the early 1900s, farmers used electricity to produce nitrogen, but the process was often unpredictable and unstable.

The innovation would come at a time when a global food crisis has placed a premium on fertilizing chemicals like potash, ammonia and urea.

The companies have filed several patent disclosures with the US government, Fritze said, giving them one year to file for an actual patent.

($1 = €0.63)

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By: David Rosen
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