Could the future of renewable energy lie with a common household chemical? Ammonia might power your cleaning products and fertilize your plants, but it could soon be the carrier for moving energy around the world. Oil and gas, which make up most of our energy supply, can easily be shipped and stored. But renewable energy, which travels through the power grid as electricity, can’t, preventing it from becoming a bigger player on the world market. That’s why researchers are trying to convert solar and wind energy into liquid ammonia, which would allow renewables to be stored and shipped as easily as petroleum products. But the current process of creating ammonia is anything but green. Combining nitrogen molecules, which are pulled from the air, and hydrogen molecules, which come from either natural gas or coal, creates massive amounts of greenhouse gases, some 1% of CO2 emissions worldwide. To make truly green ammonia, scientists get their hydrogen from water by separating it from oxygen atoms using electricity. And electricity is what renewables do best. That means regions with lots of wind and sun, like Australia, are ground zero for the new kind of ammonia production. There, the world’s biggest producer of ammonia is building a pilot plant that would rely on solar electricity. The new plant will feed power from a solar array into a bank of electrolyzers, which will convert water into hydrogen. This won’t produce fully green ammonia because natural gas will still be used in other parts of the plant. But it’s a critical first step — generating hydrogen accounts for half of the CO2 emissions from a standard ammonia production plant. To succeed in creating truly “green” ammonia, the industry will have to do away with hybrid or conventional plants altogether and, instead, rely on electrochemical cells. These cells use electricity and catalysts to knit components of air and water into ammonia, all without the heat and pressure normally used to make the chemical. This isn’t easy – at normal temperaturesand pressures, you can produce ammonia quickly or efficiently. But not both. Now, researchers are trying to create a single cell that does it all. Even if they can do it, many challenges remain. For example, scientists still need to figure out the best way to extract energy from liquid ammonia once it arrives at its destination. But if they can pull it off, this new technology could be the key to sustainable energy– all without carbon.