Review: Beyond fossil fuel–driven nitrogen transformations ($) (Science)

Obtaining the high yields needed to feed the human population depends on the application of nitrogen-containing fertilizers to non-leguminous crops, yet the production of these compounds consumes 1 – 2% of global energy output. Plant scientists are familiar with the conversion of  N2  to NH3 by nirogenase (in free-living and symbiotic bacteria), as well as its industrial production via the Haber-Bosch process, but may be less familiar with other strategies being explored to produce nitrogen in forms suitable for plant food. This interesting review by Chen et al. summarizes current efforts to generate reduced nitrogen with greater energy efficiency. The article also addresses new methods to remove envorinmentally polluting nitrogen species including nitic oxide and nitrogen dioxide. Although I didn’t understand all of the details of the reactions described, the article is mostly accessible and provides a nice glimpse into the work of nitrogen chemists. (Summary by Mary Williams) Science 10.1126/science.aar6611