All living things require nitrogen for survival, but the world depends on only two known processes to break nitrogen’s ultra-strong bonds to allow conversion to a form humans, animals and plants can consume. One is a natural, bacterial process on which farmers have relied since the dawn of agriculture. The other is the century-old Haber-Bösch process, which revolutionized fertilizer production and spurred unprecedented growth of the global food supply.
Utah State University biochemist Lance Seefeldt points out, “We live in a sea of nitrogen, yet our bodies can’t access it from the air. Instead, we get this life-sustaining compound from protein in our food.”
Now Seefeldt and his colleagues have announced a light-driven process that could, once again, revolutionize agriculture, while reducing the world food supply’s dependence on fossil fuels and taking out some of the Haber-Bösch’s vast use of natural gas.
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