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Nature's Catalyst

The enzyme system, nitrogenase Ribbon diagram

Nitrogenase fixes about 175 million tonnes of nitrogen from the atmosphere every year.

For every molecule of nitrogen converted, 12 molecules of glucose are consumed, twice the energy required in the most up-to-date industrial ammonia plants. But the energy source is the Sun.

Could we in the future immobilise nitrogenase, and harness for our direct use its ability to convert nitrogen to ammonium compounds at atmospheric temperature and pressure?

image: the enzyme system, nitrogenase ribbon
For thousands of years bacteria have been converting atmospheric nitrogen into a useful source of nitrogen compunds for agriculture. The enzyme responsible for this is nitrogenase.