22 Apr 2014

The Historical Development of the Haber-Bosch Process

A presentation by David E. Kissel, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

This presentation takes us on a journey in the development of Haber-Bosch process for ammonia synthesis. This process is the industrial implementation of the reaction of nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas. It is the main industrial procedure to produce ammonia. Fertilizer generated from ammonia produced by this process is estimated to be responsible for sustaining one-third of the earth's population. It is also estimated that half of the protein within human beings is made of nitrogen (N) that was originally fixed by this process.

The presentation starts with a discussion on the early history of N and moves on to the history of wheat yields in Europe followed by the different methods used/tried for ammonia synthesis and it's industrialization including the efficiency of a modern ammonia production plant. The presentation also discusses crop yields and N consumption in the world in recent times, and concludes with listing pathways of N loss as well as options to optimize crop use of N.

Fritz Haber, a German scientist, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 'for the synthesis of ammonia from its elements.'

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