Haber Develops a Process for Extracting Nitrogen from the Air (Great Events from History II: Science and Technology Series)
Article abstract: Haber developed the first successful method for converting nitrogen from the atmosphere and combining it with hydrogen to synthesize ammonia, a compound used as a fertilizer for agriculture.
Summary of Event
The nitrogen content of the soil, essential to plant growth, is maintained normally by the deposition and decay of old vegetation and by nitrates in the rainfall. If, however, the soil is used extensively for agricultural purposes, more intensive methods must be used to maintain soil nutrients, such as nitrogen. One such method used by farmers is crop rotation, in which successive divisions of a farm are planted in rotation with clover, corn, or wheat, for example, or allowed to lie fallow for a year or so. The clover is able to absorb nitrogen from the air and deposit it in the soil from its root nodules. As population has increased, however, farming has become more intensive, and the use of artificial fertilizers—some containing nitrogen—has become almost universal.
Nitrogen-bearing compounds, such as potassium nitrate and ammonium chloride, have been used for many years as artificial fertilizers. Much of the nitrate used, mainly potassium nitrate, came from Chilean salteter, of which a yearly amount of half a million tons was imported at the...
(The entire section is 1801 words.)
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