Biological nitrogen fixation is the process in which certain living organisms convert the free nitrogen into those compounds which can be used by plants.
(i) The organisms may be free-living bacteria (e.g., Azotobacter), symbiotic bacteria like Rhizobium or Cyanobacteria.
(ii) The enzyme involved in the process is nitrogenase, which is a Mo-Fe protein.
(iii) During this process, the atmospheric nitrogen is reduced by the addition of hydrogen.
(iv) The three bonds between the two nitrogen atoms (N ≡ N) are broken and hydrogen is progressively added to form ammonia.
(v) This fixation requires three components:
(a) ATP, to supply energy.
(b) A strong reducing agent, to transfer hydrogen atoms.
(c) The enzyme system (nitrogenase)
(vi) The overall reaction is as follows :
N2 + 8e- + 8H+ + 16 ATP-→ 2NH3 + H2 + 16 ADP +16 Pi