Fujitsu to provide HPC, AI for startup to produce clean ammonia

Ammonia as a viable, sustainable alternative to fossil fuels – and current fertilizer

Fujitsu has signed an agreement with Atmonia to deliver HPC and AI technology for the development of catalysts to drive the clean production of ammonia, which is being touted as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Atmonia is an Icelandic startup that is aiming to develop a sustainable process for ammonia production. The agreement with Fujitsu involves a joint research effort to accelerate catalyst development, which will see Fujitsu supply the high performance compute (HPC) technology.

Fujitsu said it will develop high-speed simulation technology to boost the discovery of new catalysts using HPC technology for quantum chemistry simulation, and also work on artificial intelligence (AI) technologies for the discovery of new materials and new catalyst candidates for ammonia synthesis.

We asked Fujitsu for specific details on the HPC and AI technologies it intended to use for this project, and it told us: "The HPC element consists of technology that makes quantum chemical simulations possible by using supercomputers to speed up calculations. We're using Fujitsu Supercomputer PRIMEHPC FX700 equipped with our Arm A64FX chip for these calculations.”

Fujitsu last month announced it had developed the world's fastest quantum simulator capable of emulating a 36 qubit system, and this quantum simulator operates using a cluster of PRIMEHPC FX700 nodes, but it isn't clear if this is the same technology being using for the Atmonia collaboration.

However, Fujitsu also said at the time that it was working with developer QunaSys Corporation to bring the company's quantum chemical calculation software Qamuy to its quantum simulator, and this had the aim of speeding up a wide variety of quantum chemical calculations.

For the AI part of the project, Fujitsu told us this consists of tech thatr "improves the efficiency of catalyst searches by identifying causal relationships between items such as the types and positions of catalyst atoms and reaction energy from a large amount of simulation results," which is a nice description of what the system aims to do, but doesn't shed much light on what technology the firm is using to achieve these results.

Atmonia said that for its part of the agreement, it will provide data from simulations and experiments on catalyst candidates and reaction environments for the nitrogen reduction reaction. Essentially, it will bring to the table the know-how for selection of simulation methods, and verification of any developed technologies for the discovery of new materials.

The two companies said they will work to establish a clean ammonia production method, where the ammonia can be used as a sustainable fertilizer, or as fuel for combustion, with the ultimate goal of contributing to efforts to achieve zero carbon emissions.

According to Atmonia, ammonia offers a potentially promising alternative to fossil fuels, as it does not emit CO2 when burned and is easier to transport than hydrogen, plus there are engine designs already available that run on ammonia. However, commercial ammonia production largely relies on the Haber-Bosch process, which uses hydrogen sourced from fossil fuels, and this process itself generates large amounts of CO2.

Atmonia has so far conducted research on new methods to produce ammonia by using just water, nitrogen from the air, and clean electricity. It isn't the only firm with this idea, of course, and others are chasing similar goals, but not necessarily using the same processes.

The firm said it aims to develop new catalysts that can produce ammonia using protons from water and nitrogen from air, and the agreement with Fujitsu will improve the efficiency of its research into catalysts by conducting various tests to simulate chemical reactions using quantum chemical calculations. ®

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