Advances in sensing ammonia from agricultural sources

Insausti, Matías and Timmis, Roger and Kinnersley, Rob and Rufino, Mariana C. (2020) Advances in sensing ammonia from agricultural sources. Science of the Total Environment, 706: 135124. ISSN 0048-9697

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Reducing ammonia emissions is one of the most difficult challenges for environmental regulators around the world. About 90% of ammonia in the atmosphere comes from agricultural sources, so that improving farm practices in order to reduce these emissions is a priority. Airborne ammonia is the key precursor for particulate matter (PM2.5) that impairs human health, and ammonia can contribute to excess nitrogen that causes eutrophication in water and biodiversity loss in plant ecosystems. Reductions in excess nitrogen (N) from ammonia are needed so that farms use N resources more efficiently and avoid unnecessary costs. To support the adoption of ammonia emission mitigation practices, new sensor developments are required to identify sources, individual contributions, to evaluate the effectiveness of controls, to monitor progress towards emission-reduction targets, and to develop incentives for behavioural change. There is specifically a need for sensitive, selective, robust and user-friendly sensors to monitor ammonia from livestock production and fertiliser application. Most currently-available sensors need specialists to set up, calibrate and maintain them, which creates issues with staffing and costs when monitoring large areas or when there is a need for high frequency sampling. This paper reports advances in monitoring airborne ammonia in agricultural areas. Selecting the right method of monitoring for each agricultural activity will provide critical data to identify and implement appropriate ammonia controls. Recent developments in chemo-resistive materials allow electrochemical sensing at room temperature, and new spectroscopic methods are sensitive enough to determine low concentrations in the order of parts per billion. However, these new methods still compromise selectivity and sensitivity due to the presence of ambient dust and other interferences, and are not yet suitable to be applied in agricultural monitoring. This review considers how ammonia measurements are made and applied, including the need for sensors that are suitable for routine monitoring by non-specialists. The review evaluates how monitoring information can be used for policies and regulations to mitigate ammonia emissions. The increasing concerns about ammonia emissions and the particular needs from the agriculture sector are addressed, giving an overview of the state-of-the-art and an outlook on future developments.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Science of the Total Environment
Additional Information:
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Science of The Total Environment. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Science of The Total Environment, 706, 2019 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135124
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? ammoniasensorsnitrogen losseslivestock productionfertiliser applicationenvironmental chemistrypollutionenvironmental engineeringwaste management and disposal ??
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Deposited On:
12 Dec 2019 11:40
Last Modified:
17 Dec 2023 01:46