The 2013 edition of Yara’s Birkeland award earlier this fall was won by a solid doctoral dissertation which holds the promise of possibly leading to a new ammonia production method.
Under the noble ceiling of the Norwegian Academy of Science, Jonathan Polfus, 29, from the University of Oslo, received the Yara Birkeland Prize 2013 for his chemistry doctoral thesis 'Nitrogen Oxides in - Electrical Characterization and Computational Studies of Defect Equilibria and Electronic Structure'.
CO2 neutral ammonia production?
Although challenging to comprehend for non-chemists, his research may provide more environmentally friendly ammonia production and more effective water purification systems, according to the prize jury statement following the reward.
"Ammonia is our main raw material. To produce ammonia, we need access to gas, reform it, and this gives CO2 emissions," says Yara’s CTO and Innovation Director, Pierre Herben. "In addition, it is capital-intensive to produce it. The technology proposed by Dr. Polfus could be a step towards a method that is CO2-neutral."
"I am overwhelmed and extremely pleased to receive the award," Jonathan Polfus says. "I would like to acknowledge my colleagues and mentors at my research groups, they have been important in achieving this."
The honor was handed out during the Birkeland lecture at the Norwegian Academy of Science on September 26, at a ceremony led by Pierre Herben.
Yara reinforces its R&D capabilities
"Yara has launched its creating impact strategic framework, focusing its ambition to respond to three essential challenges of future society, namely food security, environment and resources. We act in the present to produce future solutions to these megatrends," Pierre said.
"A pipeline of new talents and new ways of thinking are essential to provide solutions to complex situations," he continued. "We have now started re-shaping our R&D capabilities, increasing our research workforce by more than 50 percent in the last two years. We see education and universities as the source for future talents and as key enablers for our future projects."
"I will follow Polfus' work on behalf of Yara together with my colleague Ole-Jacob Siljan from R&D and Innovation. We need to find out if the method is viable, both technically and financially. We have an opportunity to do so through the new ENERGIX program, supported by the Norwegian Research Council which is sponsoring this work," says Odd-Arne Lorentsen, Yara R&D and Innovation.
The Birkeland Prize is awarded annually, to physics and chemistry in alternating years. The winner is selected by a five member committee from the Norwegian Chemical Society, Norwegian Physical Society and Yara. The prize of NOK 100,000 is for a dissertation made at a Norwegian university and most in keeping with Kristain Birkeland's bold spirit of research.
Yara make use of its legacy to create impact in the future.