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Chapter 5

BIO220H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Sal Ammoniac, Crop Yield, Kilogram

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John Stinchcombe

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Reading Article 5: How a century of ammonia synthesis changed the world
Haber discovers how to synthesize ammonia (usable form of N) could be synthesized:
oReact atmospheric nitrogen with hydrogen in presence of iron in high heat +
Bosch develops this on industrial scale
Haber wanted to provide fertilizer nitrogen but also wanted material for explosive
oNeed reactive N
= invention influence on WW
But also many environmental changes b/c of ammonia
oWater/air pollution
oPerturbation of GHG levels
oLoss of biodiversity
Economy and Security Benefits
Before industrial processes depend on limited natural reservoirs of reactive N
oSal ammoniac from coal
o= inefficient + energetically expensive ways
HB process:
oLower energy, cheaper, N supply
oMost impact on explosives + fertilizers
Haber wanted to develop explosives + chemical weapons b/c they “were more humane”
o“Would shorten the war”
During WW1:
oUsed HB process to make ammonia to make TNT explosive
HB process facilitate production of agricultural fertilizers on industrial scale
oIncrease agricultural productivity
By end of 20th century ~40% of world population depend on fertilizer input for food
o30-50% of crop yield increase from HB process
Now: Lives of half of humanity made possible by HB process nitrogen
Eventually will also be used for biofuel
Unintended Consequences
Most of HB ammonia manufactured for agricultural fertilizers (80%)
oBut large proportion lost to environment
oThen some is denitrified back to atmospheric N2
oThe rest escapes into terrestrial/aquatic/marine pools before denitrified and
stored as fossil nitrogen
Fertilize terrestrial biodiversity = biodiversity
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