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2022 Braun From inert gas to fertilizer, fuel and fine chemicals: N2 reduction and fixation

• Electrochemical ammonia synthesis.
• Vibration structure of nitrogenase protein.
• Outlook on ammonia economy.

The 100th anniversary of a leading nitrogen fixation technology developer like CASALE SA is a reason to reflect over the 20th century successful solution of the problem of world food supply, and to look out for solutions for sustainable developments with respect to ammonia production. We review the role of nitrogen as essential chemical constituent in photosynthesis and biology, and component of ammonia as it is used as fertilizer for primary production by photosynthesis for farming and food supply and its future role as energy carrier. While novel synthesis methods and very advanced synchrotron based x-ray analytical techniques are being developed, we feel it is important to refer to the historical and economical context of nitrogen. The breaking of the Ntriple bondN triple bond remains a fundamental chemical and energetic problem in this context. We review the electrochemical ammonia synthesis as an energetically and environmentally benign method. Two relatively novel X-ray spectroscopy methods, which are relevant for the molecular understanding of the catalysts and biocatalysts, i.e. soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy and nuclear resonant vibration spectroscopy are presented. We illustrate the perceived reality in fertilizer usage on the field, and fertilizer production in the factory complex with photos and thus provide a contrast to the academic view of the molecular process of ammonia function and production.

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