Press release | 9.6.2016
Lisbon/Munich, 9 June 2016 - Urban residents can breathe a bit easier now that a team of Danish scientists has found a way to make diesel exhaust cleaner and safer for our health and the environment. The invention harnesses the power of ammonia in a new solid composition to neutralise pollutants produced by diesel engines. For this invention, the European Patent Office (EPO) honoured Tue Johannessen, Urlich Quaade, Claus Hviid Christensen and Jens Kehlet Nørskov with the European Inventor Award in the "Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)" category, one of five award categories, at a ceremony held today in Lisbon.
''The invention of Johannessen, Quaade and their team represents a significant step forward in tackling vehicle pollution and could significantly improve air quality in larger cities,'' said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. ''Were such a novel exhaust-scrubbing system to become an industry standard, it could potentially mitigate health hazards for millions of people around the world who are exposed to poor air quality.
''The award ceremony at Lisbon's MEO Arena was attended by some 600 prominent guests from the areas of politics, business, intellectual property and science, and opened by the EPO President, Portugal's Prime Minister António Costa and European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas.
Now in its 11th year, the award is presented annually by the EPO to distinguish outstanding inventors from Europe and around the world who have made an exceptional contribution to social development, technological progress and economic growth. The winners were chosen by an independent international jury out of nearly 400 individuals and teams of inventors put forward for this year's award.
Transforming ammonia into a solid, stable form was critical to its application to clean vehicle exhaust. The Danish team successfully demonstrated that compacted metal salts could absorb significant amounts of ammonia without taking on much volume. ''It's almost magical that such large amounts of gas can be bound in solid form,'' Johannessen says.
A major advantage of the Danish team's new compact storage system, dubbed AdAmmine, is its portability: What began as a one-gram salt tablet quickly evolved into cartridges capable of storing the equivalent of 6 000 litres of gaseous ammonia. The system can be easily integrated into vehicles. The team spun off their collective research project from Denmark's Technical University (DTU) in 2005 to form Amminex, which markets the technology. "The initial patents were very important in several ways," says Johannessen. "Of course they were the foundations for the developments that have been done since then, but they were also a basis for founding the company and attracting funding to get it started." Amminex has already landed a contract to outfit 300 buses in Copenhagen with AdAmmine cartridges, converting NOx particles produced by diesel engines into water and nitrogen, and expelling them as humid air.
Johannessen, who is Amminex's chief technology officer, received his PhD in chemical engineering at DTU and Amminex's co-founders are similarly accomplished academics. Quaade, now the head of R&D, was awarded his doctorate in physics, while Christensen has a master's degree in chemistry, and Nørskov earned a PhD in theoretical physics.
Their invention could change the transport sector, which is responsible for roughly 44% of global NOx emissions, a key component of smog. It may also one day replace conventional diesel exhaust after-treatment systems, which are widespread but don't perform well in cities as the low speeds and short distances of urban driving render them ineffective. In contrast, the Danes' system can remove up to 99% of harmful toxins from diesel exhaust emitted in typical stop-and-go traffic. This edge could help Amminex replace current diesel-scrubbing systems, whose numbers are expected to triple in Europe by 2025.
Short video about the inventor (YouTube)
Note to editors: availability of AV and photo materials on 9 June 2016
Contacts at the EPO in Munich, Germany
Director External Communication