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Ammonia Goes Green

The vast majority of manufactured ammonia is used as fertilizer, and a new 100 percent renewable method will help drastically minimize carbon emissions.

About 80 percent of produced ammonia is used in agriculture as fertilizer. It's had a huge impact on us since the start of the 20th century and the use of ammonia in fertilizers has quadrupled the output of food crops globally, assisting agriculture to keep up with our ever-expanding population's needs. Yet it leaves a massive carbon footprint.

To try and combat this issue, chemical engineers from the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney in Australia have found a way to make ammonia 100 percent renewable.

"The current way we make ammonia produces more CO2 than any other chemical-making reaction," said Dr. Emma Lovell, co-author of the paper and from the UNSW School of Chemical Engineering.

"In fact, making ammonia consumes about 2 percent of the world’s energy and makes 1 percent of its CO2." On top of that, Dr. Lovell points out, as it has to be produced en masse it requires centralized locations to do so, which then increases transportation requirements - further exacerbating the carbon emissions issue. Large masses of ammonia need to be stored as well, which can sometimes lead to dangerous outcomes, like the tragic explosion in Beirut last year.

Happily, the team has found a way of producing 100 percent renewable ammonia that can be made on site. It doesn't require any fossil fuel resources and doesn't emit CO2. "So if we can make it locally to use locally, and make it as we need it, then there's a huge benefit to society as well as the health of the planet," said Dr. Lovell.

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