March 2nd, 2011
Episode 38 of 571 episodes
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. Can chemists copy nature’s tricks to ensnare this elusive molecule, using gentle reactions and without harming the environment in the process?