A breakthrough discovery by Australian scientists could dramatically reduce the carbon emissions created by ammonia production.
The smelly substance - used to produce fertilisers that keeps food growing around the world - is carbon-intensive to create.
Currently, it accounts for some 1.8 per cent of the world's carbon emissions.
But researchers at Melbourne's Monash University believe they've found a way to produce green ammonia at scale.
The research, published in the prestigious Science journal, could help Australia position itself as a leader in the ammonia economy, Monash University Faculty of Science Dean, Professor Jordan Nash said.
Ammonia could be used as a fuel and replace fossil fuels by 2050, according to one of the lead researchers on the project, Professor Doug MacFarlane.
"The technology that we have developed also opens up a broad range of possibilities for future scale up to very large production facilities for export, attached to dedicated solar and wind farms," Professor MacFarlane said.
"These could be sited in ideal renewables generating locations such as northern areas of Western Australia."
The commodity is currently created using a method called the Haber-Bosch process, which expels 1.9 metric tonnes of carbon for each metric tonne of ammonia created.
It also requires high temperatures and pressures, and is limited to production in large industrial plants.
But the method created by the Monash scientists means it could be created from renewable energy in reactors, as small as a refrigerator. Those reactors could then be placed on-site at an individual farm or the community level.
The new process is based on phosphonium salts.
The use of the salts overcomes a previous obstacle to zero-carbon ammonia synthesis methods, which only created a very small amount of ammonia because of the need for "sacrificial" sources of protons, said Dr Bryan Suryanto.
"Our study has allowed us to produce ammonia at room temperature at high, practical rates and efficiency," the researcher said.
Monash has created a spin-off company to scale up the process and demonstrate its commercial application.
Australian Associated Press