Yalinu POYA, PhD Student in Chemistry (Papua New Guinea)

In her research, Yalinu Poya is developing novel catalysts for ammonia synthesis. Ammonia is essential for the production of synthetic fertilisers, which are used in agriculture in huge quantities. Currently, the process of ammonia production requires large-scale plants consuming great amounts of energy and leading to a high carbon dioxide output. Yalinu aims to make ammonia synthesis more sustainable, highly efficient, and applicable in small-scale plants.


Research focus: metal catalysts for ammonia synthesis in the Haber-Bosch process

The Haber-Bosch process is the key process for producing fertilisers. Using this method, very large amounts of ammonia are synthesised, establishing an accessible route for the production of more than 450 million tonnes of synthetic fertilisers annually. On the one hand, this maintains food production for 40 percent of the world's population, but on the other hand, the Haber-Bosch process currently consumes 2 percent of the world’s energy demand and causes 1.6 percent of man-made CO2 emissions.

To reduce these harmful effects and yield massive rewards both in terms of economic and environmental benefits, there is a great interest in the development of local small-scale ammonia production plants based on the use of renewable energies. In such a context, Yalinu has taken up the challenge of developing new ammonia synthesis catalysts which are active under less severe operational conditions appropriate to small-scale reactors close to its point of use. In her study, Yalinu is using magnesium oxide as a catalyst support for cobalt rhenium in order to obtain a more highly dispersed catalytic phase. She expects that this approach could potentially lead to the development of high performance catalysts.

Above all, it was Yalinu’s fresh perspective on addressing the UN Sustainable Development goals and global challenges, such as food and energy security, climate change, and energy generation from renewable sources, that made the jury’s choice easy. They are confident that winning the Green Talents award will take Yalinu one step closer to her lifelong goal to work with an organisation that contributes to improving the livelihoods of people, bettering society, tackling environmental issues and fulfilling the UN Sustainable Goals.