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Reaction Engines, IP Group and STFC launch decarbonisation venture

British space propulsion company Reaction Engines, IP Group, and the UK Government-funded Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) will jointly create a world leading decarbonisation technology company based partly on rocket motor technology.

At the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, the partners announced the formation of a joint venture technology company to produce lightweight and compact ammonia cracker reactors for use in hard to decarbonise sectors. The new venture will combine Reaction Engines’ heat exchanger technology developed for its SABRE™ air-breathing rocket engine, STFC’s leading ammonia catalyst expertise and funding from IP Group

The new joint venture will design and bring to market lightweight and compact ammonia reactors to enable the use of ammonia as a zero-carbon fuel for use in transport applications, such as aviation and marine shipping, in addition to other hard-to-decarbonise applications such as power generation, particularly ‘stranded grids’ or ‘off grid’ applications. The reactor will catalytically crack the ammonia into an easy to combust fuel for gas turbines and internal combustion engines.

The collaboration will combine Reaction Engines’ heat exchanger technology developed for its SABRE engine and currently being used in other technology applications, STFC’s leading expertise in developing ammonia catalyst technology, along with funding and venture-building expertise from IP Group.

Commenting, Dr James Barth, Ammonia Program Lead at Reaction Engines, said, “Having IP Group’s backing for Reaction Engines’ first commercial spin-out is a huge vote of confidence in the compact, lightweight ammonia reactor technology we are developing. We are excited to work together to help decarbonise power and propulsion systems in transport, power generation, and other hard to abate sectors.”

Fully decarbonising transport, and particularly long-distance travel, remains one of the hardest to solve technological challenges as countries seek to move towards a net-zero economy. Appropriately blended using the unique lightweight cracker technology developed by the new joint venture, ammonia and hydrogen together can be the carbon-free substitute that addresses the challenges of hard-to-abate sectors such as aviation and maritime.

The joint venture technology company is taking forward IP that was developed with STFC proof-of-concept funding as part of STFC’s active support for innovative technologies. The collaboration was kick-started through the Harwell Energytec Cluster and initially funded by the STFC cross-cluster proof of concept.

At present aviation and maritime account for 5% of total global carbon emissions and both sectors are expected to see significant increases in carbon emissions over the coming years.

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