Solving a 75-year-old mystery could provide new source for farm nitrogen fertilizer

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Marta Hatzell
Marta Hatzell

The solution for a 75-year-old material secret allows farmers in developing countries one day the chance to produce their own manure with sunlight and nitrogen from the air.

Thanks to a specialized X-ray source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers have confirmed that there is a long-accepted interaction between nitrogen and titanium dioxide (TiO2) – a known photo-active material, which is also known as titanium dioxide, – in the presence of light. It is believed that the catalytic reaction using carbon atoms found as impurities on the titanium oxide.

When the nitrogen fixation reaction can be strengthened, this may one day contribute to the production of fertilizer agricultural scale, thus reducing dependence on capital intensive, central production and expensive distribution systems, that farmers in remote areas drive to costs. Most of the global fertilizer is produced today with ammonia, which is produced by the Haber-Bosch process that requires large amounts of natural gas.

Source: Georgia Tech Read full story here.