I recently noticed that there is an amazing amount of research into improved methods for ammonia synthesis happening in Japan (and hardly any in Europe). It turns out that a continuous tradition links this research to Setsuro Tamaru, a Japanese post-doc who worked with Fritz Haber in Karlsruhe and then in Berlin, until the beginning of the first world war.
As I've always used nitrogen fixation as a key example of how nature does things better than we do, I had a closer look at what the Japanese researchers are up to and where we stand on the spectrum between Haber's classic high temperature, high pressure synthesis, and nature's ambient conditions nitrogen fixation.
The resulting feature is out now in Chemistry & Industry:
N2: no quick fix
Chemistry & Industry Volume 81, Issue 10, pages 36-38
open access to full (HTML) text via SCI website ((LINK to follow, hopefully))
restricted access to PDF file via Wiley Online Library
Setsuro Tamaru (1916∼1917 in New York).