Nitrogen Fixation from Air

Request Number N050166
Author Kevin Andrews
Need details

ICL-Innovation seeks novel materials and technologies to permit nitrogen fixation in plants from the air at ambient temperature and pressure.




The biological enzyme nitrogenase is a natural way of catalyzing nitrogen fixation from the air. Airborne nitrogen is generally unavailable for plants and therefore requires a symbiotic process. In legumes, as an example, symbiosis occurs with bacteria called Rhizobium that synthesize the nitrogenase enzyme. Nitrogenase reduces nitrogen to ammonia which is used for a host of growth and life sustaining processes, notably photosynthesis. When thinking about ways to mimic this natural process two routes come to mind:  photo-fixation on the leaf and a chemical process in the rhizosphere—the area surrounding the roots. As our objective is to address the nitrogen needs of the plant, the desired production rate is small, and need not compete with such industrial processes as Haber-Bosch in efficiency and volume. It is only required to provide the plant’s needs or at least some part thereof.


With this need, ICL-Innovation hopes to address a pressing environmental concern, namely excess nitrogen concentration in soil which leads to runoff into fresh water streams. We encourage new ideas that focus on the plant’s environment and the ways to enrich it with this most needed of nutrients—nitrogen.



Key Success Criteria
  • Rate of fixation should meet the plant's need for nitrogen (or at least provide a substantial portion)
    • Production rate of (0.1-1.0)x10-8 mol/cm2∙sec
    • Concentration in a fertigation sytem of 20-200 ppm with flow rates of 2-8 m3/hr∙hectar
  • Total usage cost should be lower than that for using urea
  • Solution should comply with current and anticipated regulations
  • Solution should be easy to manufacture


Possible Approaches

May include but are not limited to:

  • Modified natural mineral or synthetic organo-metallic complexes for the photo-fixation of nitrogen from air
  • Biomimetic system that could be added to crops either through roots or through foliar application
  • A module that uses photo-fixation technology to generate just enough nitrogen (as nitrate or ammonium) to add to irrigation or fertigation system





Approaches not of interest

ICL-Innovation is not interested in responses which offer approaches which are already commercialized and available on the market.



Preferred Collaboration types
  • Joint Development
  • Contract Research
  • Technology Licensing
  • To Be Negotiated
Items to be submitted
ICL-Innovation welcomes responses from academic or research institutions or other organizations who are interested in developing innovative technologies and sharing intellectual property in licensing.  Approaches with demonstrated feasibility are preferred, but early stage approaches with sound scientific concepts are also welcome.  Technologies aligned with business interest will enjoy full funding until implemented on an industrial scale.


We are looking for concise non-confidential proposals, statements of expertise, and other inquiries if your expertise fits our needs. Please use the Respond button to submit your proposal.



Point of Contact
Kevin Andrews
Area of Interest
  • Agriculture & Forestry
  • Crop Production
  • Specialty Chemicals
  • Synthetic Chemistry
  • Natural Products
  • Research Organizations
  • Universities & Colleges
ICL Innovation
Due Date
December 31, 2016
Award Amount
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