Similarly, the ability to fix N2 efficiently would alter the impending crisis of eutrophication of coastal waters throughout the world.
Over the past century, humans have dramatically altered the global environment, extracting resources and energy to facilitate economic growth and development. Many valuable resources, such as fixed inorganic nitrogen and organic carbon, are essential for production of food and for fuels. These biologically critical molecules are either produced inefficiently by chemical synthesis or are not available in sufficient quantities.
Over the next century, a major challenge for society will be to develop or redesign metabolic pathways, based primarily on microbial systems, to greatly accelerate fluxes of materials and energy. One of the major outcomes of understanding metabolic pathways and energy transformation processes is to replace technologies designed in the 19th and 20th centuries with sustainable processes that are biologically driven.