The Role of Chemistry in History

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Ammonia Affects History

April 29th, 2008 · No Comments ·

Introduction | Chemical and Physical Properties | Synthesis of Ammonia: The Haber-Bosch Process | A Fertilizer | Ammonia Affects History | Other Uses

  • Germany and World War I
    • During this time, Chile was the biggest exporter of nitrates to Germany. Germany used these nitrates to produce the supply of their munitions during the war
    • A naval blockade was formed that prevented Germany from getting its supply of nitrates from Chile. Unless something was done quickly, Germany would run of munitions to continue to fight the war
    • Rescue came in the form of ammonia and the Haber-Bosch Process. Germany devised a way using the Haber-Bosch process to convert ammonia into nitric acid and nitrates. It proved to be incredibly beneficial to Germany who now had a much more efficient way of producing munitions
    • Many believe that without the Haber-Bosch Process, Germany would have almost certainly run out of explosives in 1916, ending the war three years earlier than it actually did


  • Fertilizer and World Population
    • After World War II, there was a rising demand for nitrogen fertilizers. Thus, the production of ammonia shifted to the purpose of producing it for fertilizers
    • The efficiently of crop production increased exponentially
    • The Haber-Bosh synthesis of ammonia removed the limits on nitrogen supply that had constrained traditional agriculture
    • This allowed for a large population increase around the world
    • Raised standard of living in Third World Countries
    • Changed diets
    • Malnutrition was greatly decreased.
    • The use of ammonia-based fertilizers also made it possible to grow crops in places that normally could not grow crops
  • About 85% of all nitrogen in food proteins available for human consumption comes directly in plant foods from the world’s cropland and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers provide about half of the nutrient in those harvests crops
  • Therefore, more than 40% of the world’s protein supply comes the Haber-Bosch synthesis of ammonia
  • In other words, the synthesis of ammonia is responsible for feeding 2.2 billion people

Tags: Ammonia