The Global Nitrogen Innovation Center for Clean Energy and the Environment (NICCE)

The Global Nitrogen Innovation Center for Clean Energy and the Environment (NICCEE) aims to accelerate social and technological innovation for sustainable, climate-smart nitrogen management in agriculture-food-energy systems, including the urgent need to respond to the challenges and opportunities of ?green ammonia.? Ammonia, primarily used in agriculture as a source of nitrogen for fertilizer, has long been produced using carbon-intensive methods, sometimes called “brown ammonia.” In contrast, “green ammonia” is produced using water, air, and sunlight or electricity from renewable sources, leading to zero carbon emissions. Green ammonia also shows great promise as a carbon-free fuel and is set to replace at least half of the shipping fuel currently dominated by fossil fuels by 2050. Yet green ammonia presents risks alongside its opportunities; for example, increasing demand for ammonia as shipping fuel could increase fertilizer and food costs, and increased use as fertilizer could exacerbate nitrogen pollution. NICCEE?s research vision is that the pursuit of technologies for improved crop productivity, climate change mitigation, and clean energy needs to be accompanied by socioeconomic innovation and co-design with users to accelerate adoption, maximize social benefits, while minimizing unintended socio-environmental consequences. The center leverages expertise and resources across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom to advance this vision, and works in partnership with international organizations, private businesses, and local stakeholders. The center will support training and professional development for undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral researchers including internships with partners at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fertilizer Association, and The Nature Conservancy.

The NICCEE team (1) uses cutting-edge data collection and analysis techniques to quantify and model the nitrogen flows in the agrifood and energy systems for each participating country and on a subnational spatial scale; (2) adopts a co-production, ?living labs? framework to ensure the research team?s work and recommendations reflect end users? views, concerns and experiences in pilot testing the distributed green ammonia production units on farm; and (3) addresses gaps in STEM education through a novel, transdisciplinary graduate education training program that will offer data scientists, engineers, and social innovators the technical and social skills necessary to lead future efforts at the nexus of the climate and nitrogen crises.?

This award is funded by the Global Centers program, an innovative partnership with funding agencies in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, to jointly support use-inspired research addressing global challenges in climate change and clean energy. Partnerships with the Commonwealth Science and Innovation Research Organisation (CSIRO), Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) leverage resources to tackle challenges at a larger scale than would be possible for one funding agency alone. This Center is jointly supported by NSF, NSERC and UKRI..

Funding: National Science Foundation (5 years, NSF 2330502)

PI: X. Zhang; Co-PI: M. Houser, E. Davidson; Senior Personnel: C. Davis, L. Harris