About 2.5 billion years ago bacteria succeeded in transforming atmospheric nitrogen into reactive nitrogen. This was a decisive process for the entire evolution of life, as nitrogen is used throughout all areas, where very special tasks have to be accomplished. Without nitrogen there would be no proteins and no DNA. Nitrogen is a fundamental building block of all living things!

Until today, bacteria use an incredibly complex molecule in order to transform slowly reactive nitrogen. This molecule is called nitrogenase. With nitrogenase the bacteria succeed in bringing about 100 million tons of nitrogen from the air down to Earth yearly. At the same time, humans produce just as much with the Haber-Bosch plants. Trend: increasing.


Some bacteria are able to activate unreactive atmospheric nitrogen. In these bacteria as well, the enzyme nitrogenase, a very complex protein, is at work. The FeMo-cofactor is that part of the nitrogenase which is responsible for the nitrogen bond: It is a molecular machine that succeeds in fixing the inactive atmospheric nitrogen at room temperature with the help of, among others, molybdenum (Mo) and iron (Fe). In this way, active nitrogen is produced which the bacteria – and all living things that cooperate with it - can use.

Iron, with which nature works in order to activate the atmospheric nitrogen, plays a central role in the Haber-Bosch process, too. In the reaction chamber iron catalysts are used to break down the atmospheric nitrogen - a parallel between nature and technology!