March 2nd, 2011
Episode 37 of 607 episodes
Fixing the nitrogen fix. Roland Pease asks whether after a hundred years of the old industrial process, there’s a better way of making nitrogen fertilisers. Nitrogen is one of the most important elements for life, and we’re virtually swimming in it – the atmosphere is four fifths nitrogen gas. And yet nitrogen is one of the hardest elements for life to capture – it’s a molecule that’s almost completely inert. But can chemists copy nature’s tricks to ensnare this elusive molecule, using gentle reactions and without harming the environment in the process.