University of Rochester

Chemist Receives Fulbright to Advance Nitrogen Research

July 8, 2011

University of Rochester Chemistry Professor Patrick Holland will be traveling to Germany next spring to further his work on extracting nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Holland has been named a 2011-2012 Fulbright Scholar, and will use the award to conduct four months of research at the Max Planck Institute for Bioinorganic Chemistry in Mülheim, Germany.

Holland's research focuses on ways to convert nitrogen from the atmosphere into useful chemicals. Holland describes this conversion as "challenging" since nitrogen is an extremely stable—and unreactive—molecule. The rewards, however, can be momentous.

For example, the Haber-Bosch process converts nitrogen and hydrogen from the atmosphere into ammonia, which is used to make hundreds of millions of tons of fertilizer every year. "If not for fertilizers from the Haber-Bosch process," said Holland, "farmers would only be able to produce half as much food as they do today." Holland's research aims to increase our understanding of this process.

While at the Max Planck Institute, Holland will be working with German chemist Frank Neese, who developed a computational technique that Holland hopes to apply to his research on nitrogen.

The Fulbright program, sponsored by the U.S. Government, was created to foster the exchange of educational and research ideas between the United States and other countries.