Ammonia to Hydrogen Metal Membrane Separation Technology

September 22nd, 2020

Ammonia to Hydrogen Metal Membrane Separation Technology

CSIRO metal membrane technology allows hydrogen to be transported in the form of ammonia and then reconverted to hydrogen; CSIRO has progressed the use of this technology for use in fuel cell vehicles.

Lead participants:

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)


Research and development



In progress – technology development final phase completed

Estimated cost:

AUD$3.4 million – Technology development final phase

Research partners:

BOC, Toyota and Hyundai


Main supply chain category:

Hydrogen carrier


Queensland, Australia

Announced funding:

Technology development final phase

  • AUD$1.7 million – Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF)
  • AUD$1.7 million – CSIRO

Research description

CSIRO has considerable expertise in separating pure hydrogen from mixed-gas streams. Since 2017, it has been progressing its metal membrane technology for converting ammonia to ultra-high purity hydrogen for use in fuel cell vehicles.

The CSIRO metal membrane technology allows hydrogen to be transported in the form of ammonia (which is well traded globally and has existing infrastructure) and then reconverted to hydrogen. Ammonia has high capacity for hydrogen ‘storage’ – 17.6 wt.% based on its molecular structure.

The CSIRO metal membrane technology reconverts ammonia to hydrogen in a two-stage process:

  • firstly, a ruthenium catalyst cracks ammonia into its constituent elements, nitrogen and hydrogen.
  • secondly, a vanadium-based metal membrane separates hydrogen from the other elements.

As the ammonia is ‘cracked’ and then ‘purified’ into high-purity hydrogen via a modular membrane reactor unit, the process of reconversion can occur at, or near, the point of use.

In May 2017, CSIRO announced funding to progress the metal membrane technology from the laboratory to the final stages of development. CSIRO subsequently progressed the technology into a functioning system that met ISO specifications for fuel cell vehicles.

In August 2018, CSIRO ‘road-tested’ the Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel cell vehicles fuelled by ultra-high purity hydrogen derived from the metal membrane technology. BOC supplied the ammonia for the development work as well as engineering collaborations with CSIRO researchers.

The research and development of the technology was primarily undertaken at the CSIRO laboratories at the QCAT precinct (an integrated research and development precinct for the resources and advanced technology industries) in Pullenvale, a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland.

In November 2018, the announcement of an AUD$20 million partnership between CSIRO and the Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) to progress hydrogen technologies highlighted the potential for further investment in the metal membrane technology.

In August 2020, FMG announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Hyundai and CSIRO that outlines areas of cooperation in the development of hydrogen technology, including the development and future commercialisation of metal membrane technology. Hyundai would seek to demonstrate the viability of the technology for renewable hydrogen production and vehicle fuelling in Korea.


This description was reviewed by the lead research participant in August 2020.