Ammonia, the key component of most fertilizers, shows promise as a carbon-free way to store and transport hydrogen fuel. When burned, ammonia itself releases no carbon emissions. However, new Princeton University research indicates that while an "ammonia economy" could aid decarbonization efforts, it also risks severe disruption of the nitrogen cycle if not thoughtfully engineered and managed.
In an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the 12-member research team found that widespread ammonia adoption could unintentionally increase emissions of nitrous oxide, a extremely potent greenhouse gas, as well as nitrogen oxides, which contribute to smog and acid rain. Additionally, leaks or accidental releases of ammonia could directly pollute air and water while also disturbing delicate nitrogen-based ecosystems.
The researchers therefore stress that while ammonia shows promise, policymakers and industry must take a cautious approach. Strict standards and oversight are needed to ensure new ammonia infrastructure and practices avoid harmful nitrogen leakage and instead offer a sustainable path to a clean energy future. With diligent governance keeping amateurism in check, ammonia's prospects remain bright.
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