NitroNet: Smart System to Quantify Nitrous Oxide Emissions

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New Jersey
Project Term:
05/21/2021 - 05/20/2024

Critical Need:

Agricultural and land-based carbon removal, management, and storage is critical to comprehensive climate change mitigation strategies. New technologies to support necessary carbon markets are needed, although robust carbon markets already exist for biofuels. The goal of removing and sequestering more carbon along the biofuel supply chain than it emits requires feedstock producers to adopt new technologies and practices that simultaneously improve yield, drive down production-associated emissions, and enhance carbon sequestration in soils. Carbon management incentives exist downstream in the biofuel supply chain, but not in feedstock production because monitoring and verifying its emissions are too costly to conduct at the field level. Feedstock producers receive the national average for feedstock-production emissions despite significant variations in state and regional averages, as well as field-level estimates. Producers need detailed accounting of biofuel life cycle inputs (e.g., energy, nutrients, chemicals) and outputs (e.g., energy, co-products, emissions) to establish a reliable baseline against which to measure progress.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The agricultural production of crops, the primary source of nitrous oxide (N2O), contributes approximately 4% of all greenhouse gases from the U.S. annually. Quantifying these emissions, which are non-uniform in space and time, is a significant challenge at the field and farm scales. Princeton University’s NitroNet is an autonomous sensing system designed to monitor N2O emissions over an entire growing season at high spatial and temporal resolutions. By casting a virtual “net” over an entire field, NitroNet will monitor the non-uniform N2O emissions within the field using atmospheric laser imaging. The total nitrogen loss over a growing season through N2O emissions will be quantified to inform practices that minimize the climate change impacts and environmental harms of agricultural crop production. A first of its kind system, NitroNet uses eye-safe laser beams, low-cost reflectors, and highly sensitive detectors around the perimeter of a field to measure N2O concentrations at a 1-acre resolution without impacting regular agricultural activities, such as tillage, planting, fertilization, and harvest. This continuous, laser-based monitoring will be validated using a small unmanned aerial system and compared with conventional approaches.

Potential Impact:

Reducing the uncertainty of emissions quantification is critical to realizing the revenue potential of carbon management markets.


New technologies will maintain U.S. leadership in sustainable biofuel production and advanced carbon removal and management.


These technologies will help incentivize continued emissions reductions throughout the biofuel and bioeconomy supply chains while enabling new opportunities to leverage agriculture and managed land systems to perform carbon removal, management, and storage to address climate change.


Enabling producers to participate in carbon management markets would complement yield-based revenues with economic incentives for input efficiency, climate change mitigation, and restorative practices.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. David Babson
Project Contact:
Mr. Mark Zondlo
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Locus Agricultural Solutions, Inc.
Intelligent Material Solutions (IMS)

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