Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Chemistry and Biochemistry

Committee Chair(s)

Lance C. Seefeldt


Lance C. Seefeldt


Sean Johnson


Korry Hintze


As a basic building block in many biological molecules the element nitrogen (N) is essential for life. Dinitrogen (N2) is abundant in Earth’s atmosphere, but this form is biologically unavailable. To be biologically available N2 must undergo an energy demanding reduction reaction to the fixed form, ammonia (NH3). The industrial Haber-Bosch process, which accounts for approximately 50% of the worlds fixed nitrogen, uses energy from fossil fuels to achieve high pressures and temperatures to facilitate the reaction. The energy used by Haber-Bosch accounts for approximately 2% of the world’s annual supply. The remainder of fixed nitrogen is produced biologically by nitrogen fixing microorganisms (diazotrophs), utilizing nitrogenase enzymes. Nitrogenase enzymes perform the reduction at ambient temperature and pressure, deriving the necessary energy from the energy rich molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The main focus of this research is exploring how nitrogenase enzymes are able to achieve N2 reduction under ambient conditions. Another focus is aimed at understanding how nitrogenase enzymes can be used to reduce carbon dioxide into energy rich hydrocarbons. A more complete understanding of these can be used to inform industry on cleaner more efficient processes.



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