EESS talk on "Biological nitrogen fixation: Cooperativity, artificial (re)activation and biotechnological prospects"


Event details

Date 12.12.2023
Hour 12:1513:15
Speaker Prof. Ross Milton, Department of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences, University of Geneva
Location Online
Category Conferences - Seminars
Event Language English
Industrial ammonia fertilizer production has played a key role in the growth of the human population, where it is thought that ~50% of the nitrogen found in our bodies originates from the Haber-Bosch process. Dinitrogen is reacted with molecular hydrogen over K-promoted Fe catalyst beds in a process that is highly efficient (atom efficiency), but which also results in the consumption of 1-2% of global energy and a carbon footprint greater than that of global aviation.In nature, a single class of metalloenzymes named nitrogenases employs Fe-containing metal centers to catalyze the fixation of dinitrogen to ammonia under ambient conditions, achieving up to 75% selectivity. However, many questions remain surrounding nitrogenase’s catalytic mechanism and multiple limitations must be surmounted to exploit this enzyme in new biotechnologies for ammonia production. This seminar will present our recent efforts ultimately aimed at interfacing nitrogenases with electrodes where renewable electrical energy could drive ammonia production, namely (i) understanding why nitrogenase has ~C2 symmetry and (ii) whether we can produce this complex metalloenzyme in biotechnologically malleable organisms.

Short biography:
Ross was awarded a PhD from the University of Surrey (UK, thesis director: Robert Slade), where his thesis focused on enzymatic electrocatalysis. He was awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship to further his training under the guidance of Shelley Minteer (University of Utah, USA) and Dónal Leech (National University of Ireland Galway), where he investigated electroenzymatic nitrogen fixation. After a second postdoctoral training period with Alfred Spormann (Stanford University, USA) looking at energy conversion mechanisms by metalloenzymes with >28 metalloclusters, he moved to the University of Geneva as a tenure-track assistant professor in 2019. He now leads a research group interested in metalloenzyme (electro)catalysis.

Practical information

  • General public
  • Free
  • This event is internal


  • EESS - IIE



Biological nitrogen fixation nitrogenase ammonia metalloenzyme metallocofactors cooperativity.