Groundbreaking discovery could slash carbon footprint of fertilizer

Fertilizer over bag

Scientists make groundbreaking discovery that could secure our food supply using technology

Enero 27, 2024

Scientists have developed a more planet-friendly way to produce fertilizer, which is an essential component of global food systems. 

Fertilizer is one of the most pollution-heavy aspects of farming because the production of its key ingredient, ammonia, requires high heat and intense pressure. Currently, synthetic ammonia production accounts for 2% of planet-warming pollution each year. 

Now, a team of Chinese and Australian scientists announced they have discovered a new way to produce ammonia for fertilizer that lessens its environmental impact.

The discovery involved air-zapping lasers that made fertilizer almost 40 times more efficient than conventional methods. In simple terms, the researchers used a pulsing laser to zap the air and make plasma (which Anthropocene describes as "highly-activated air").

Then, they were able to turn nitrogen into nitrate. They used water to help the compound ditch its oxygen atom and substitute it for hydrogen, resulting in ammonia. This new innovation is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to the environmental impacts of fertilizers.