Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC): UC is awarded the Millennium Institute for the development of ammonia as clean energy

On April 29, the National Research and Development Agency (ANID) reported that the Millennium Institute on Green Ammonia as an Energy Vector (MIGA), directed by Professor Mauricio Isaacs of the UC School of Chemistry , was awarded an amount of 8,400 million pesos for a 10-year investigation.

“We are glad that the scientific topics we work on, especially electrochemistry, have been recognized as high priority for the country” – Mauricio Isaacs, academic from the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy

MIGA’s main objective is to consolidate an interdisciplinary space of scientific excellence, promoting the training of advanced human resources, knowledge and technology in issues related to sustainable production and the use of ammonia as an energy vector.

MIGA is an alliance derived from the academic relationship between the UC Energy Center (CE-UC) , the Center for Research in Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (CIEN-UC) and the incorporation of national and international institutions. MIGA brings together the best of the experience of each group, adding the scientific capabilities of leading researchers from UC, the University of Santiago de Chile, the Austral University and the University of Talca.

“For us, having been awarded the institute means the consolidation of a scientific career in the field of energy, new materials, nanotechnology and sustainability. This also represents a long time of interdisciplinary work with colleagues from CIEN-UC and CE- UC and the universities of Santiago, Austral and Talca, in addition to a lot of dedication put into the area of ​​energy and materials”, explains the academic, to continue:

“We are glad that the scientific topics we work on, especially electrochemistry, have been recognized as high priority for the country. We know that we still have a lot to work on and our priority now is to consolidate the institute and its projection for the next ten years or plus”.


Ammonia (NH3) had a profound global impact since the discovery of its synthesis from hydrogen and nitrogen by Haber and Bosch in 1910. The key role of NH3 today is to be the raw material for the production of fertilizers, benefiting about half of the world’s population. The Haber-Bosch (HB) process consumes nearly 2% of the world’s energy and generates 1.9 metric tons of CO2 per NH3 equivalent. Like fossil fuels, NH3 stores energy and can be used as a fuel where the energy is released after breaking and forming chemical bonds. The dependence of the HB process on fossil fuels and its high CO2 emission, together with the role of NH3 as an energy and fuel vector,

The key role of ammonia (NH3), today, is to be the raw material for the production of fertilizers, benefiting approximately half of the world’s population.

Today, NH3, along with the cement and steel industries, is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. Therefore, the great challenge for a sustainable future is to achieve its production by electrochemical means, using renewable energy, although the real intermediate process is to produce ammonia from green hydrogen instead of hydrogen from the reforming of fossil fuels. MIGA’s vision for the future is to be able to produce NH3 directly from air and water on a local scale, using electrochemical processes.

“Ammonia is projected as a direct complement to the hydrogen economy due to its easy transport and combustion properties, but it also brings us closer to a more sustainable agriculture and the decarbonization of our society” – Mauricio Isaacs, academic from the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy

MIGA’s mission is to address this challenge with an interdisciplinary approach that bridges current technological gaps, advancing knowledge and technology, generating interdisciplinary training in the area for new researchers, contributing to the installation of clean energy-based economies for Chile and the international community.

“MIGA’s activities will be fundamental in the scientific, economic and human resource development for the country. MIGA creates a direct portal to energy storage issues, whether in carriers (ammonia, hydrogen, methanol) or devices such as batteries or supercapacitors. Ammonia is projected as a direct complement to the hydrogen economy due to its easy transport and combustion properties, but it also brings us closer to a more sustainable agriculture and the decarbonisation of our society”, says Professor Isaacs.

MIGA and its five areas
The Millennium Institute on Green Ammonia as an Energy Vector (MIGA) is conceptualized in five interdisciplinary and interrelated research areas:

Electrochemical production of NH3
Production of H2 from electrolysis of NH3
Design and prototypes of NH3 fuel cells
Corrosion and protection processes and
Ammonia economy.

MIGA is a unique initiative in Latin America and differs from other world centers for its transdisciplinary concept that involves everything from electrochemistry to economics.

The team of investigators in charge of MIGA is made up of its director, Mauricio Isaacs (UC), its alternate director, María Jesús Aguirre (USACH), and the principal investigators: José Mejía (UC), Juan Francisco Armijo (UC), Carlos Restrepo (UTALCA), Diego Celentano (UC), Loreto Troncoso (UACH), Magdalena Walczak (UC), Mamié Sancy (UC) and Enzo Sauma (UC).

Additionally, professors from the School of Chemistry, Rodrigo del Río and Galo Ramírez , will participate in the MIGA team as associate researchers.

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