How would you prepare ammonia on industrial scale ?

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Payal Khullar | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Ammonia (NH3), an inorganic substance (mainly used as a chemical fertilizer), is prepared on the industrial scale by the Haber-Bosch process (or simply the Haber’s process). The Haber-Bosch process is named after the German scientists Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch.

Haber’s process makes use of the chemical reaction between Hydrogen and Nitrogen to form Ammonia on a large scale.

The balanced chemical reaction for the production of ammonia can be represented as follows:

N2 (↑)           +        3 H2 (↑)     ⇌           2 NH3(↑)

Nitrogen                  Hydrogen                Ammonia

              (Reactants)                             (Products)


The equilibrium sign (⇌ in between the reactants and the products) indicates that this reaction is a reversible one. This reaction releases a lot of heat and energy and hence it is an exothermic reaction.

Being rather slow at room temperature, this reaction requires catalysts, i.e. substances that alter the speed of a reaction without taking part in the reaction process. Aluminium Oxide (Al2O3) and iron oxide (Fe2 O3) are widely used as catalysts in this process.

Hydrogen utilized for the reaction is generally obtained from Methane (or Natural gas). Nitrogen is obtained from the atmosphere (hence called atmospheric Nitrogen).

It is to be noted that all the reactants and products in this case are in the gaseous state. Hence I have put the symbol (↑) that indicates the same.