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Our air is 4/5 nitrogen gas. We use nitrogen to make our DNA and other parts of our bodies, so why don't we just breathe nitrogen?

It turns out, nitrogen gas is really hard to break down. It's two nitrogen atoms triple-bonded together, and humans don't have the strong enzymes that can break those nitrogens apart. But bacteria have those enzymes. They're called nitrogenases and they use up a lot of energy to break the triple bonds and add three hydrogens to each nitrogen molecule. That turns the nitrogen gas into two ammonia molecules, which are much easier to break down.

Some bacteria do this in a way that lets plants take up that nitrogen, and then we eat the plants and our bodies use it. So we cannot breathe nitrogen, but bacteria help us eat it.