Ammonia Synthesis

However, with increased demand, the organic sources became were fast depleted. Air has a boundless supply of nitrogen, but this free nitrogen gas has to be fixed in order to be utilized. In 1908, Fritz Haber discovered a process for synthesizing ammonia from atmospheric nitrogen and hydrogen in a chemical process that came to be Haber process. For this discovery, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918. The Haber process was further developed for industry applications by Carl Bosch, who also won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1931. Thus, the process is also called the Haber-Bosch process.
Approximately ninety percent of all manufactured ammonia in the United States of America is used in the production of nitrogenous fertilizers like urea, ammonium nitrate, and ammonium phosphate (U.S. Geological Survey). Thus, ammonia directly affects the world’s nutrition and survival. The other 15% is used in the manufacture of explosives, plastics, pharmaceuticals, cleaning material, dyes, solvents, and others.
The Haber –Bosch process was the first to use very high pressures and high temperatures to react nitrogen and hydrogen gases, under the influence of an iron catalyst, to produce ammonia. This is still the process used until now to produce ammonia. The chemical efficiency of the reaction is a function of pressure and temperature: increasing the pressure and lower temperatures give higher reaction yields (based on Le Chatelier’s principle).
The reaction is exothermic, producing considerable heat energy. It is also reversible, and can proceed forward (or to the right) to produce ammonia or in the reverse to produce nitrogen and oxygen gases. Based on reaction 1, 1 mole of NH3 gas is produced from a total of 2 moles reactants (1/2 N2 + 3/2 H2), due to this, there is also an accompanying decrease in the volume of the reaction.