Nitrogen Fertilizer: New Strategies for Low-energy, Low-emission Production and Use

Default ARPA-E Project Image

OPEN 2021
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Project Term:
08/30/2022 - 08/30/2025

Technology Description:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aims to develop technologies that can collectively replace N fertilizer derived from the HB process. Their approach uses biological N fixation performed by the plant or associated bacteria with current and future sources of synthetic N. Each of the approaches provides N to the crops at different times and impacts energy, yield, and emissions. If successful, these advances will eliminate the need for the energy intense HB-derived N from agriculture. The application of N fertilizer is critical to obtain high crop yields, and has directly contributed to the global rise in crop yields over the last 50 years, but advances need to be made to simultaneously meet N requirements and ambitious energy, climate and sustainability targets.

Potential Impact:

If successful, the proposed technologies will eliminate HB-derived nitrogen from agriculture.


Global N demand has been projected to double this century, due to increased food needs alone. MIT’s approach aims to provide all of the required fixed N on site.


The new technologies will eliminate a major source of global GHGs, including CO2 from HB and transportation fuels, and reduce N2O emissions.


The team will use a techno-economic model that will directly compare technologies and guide which approaches are viable, how they can be optimally combined, and when to use them or not. This model is specific to different agricultural conditions and can be applied to specific field data, including soil type, weather, and geography.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Steven Singer
Project Contact:
Christopher Voigt
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:

Related Projects

Release Date: