The Haber-Bosch process is alternatively referred to as the Haber ammonia process or as the synthetic ammonia process in other contexts, and it refers to the synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and ammonia. The chemistry behind the process is that it involves the exertion of high pressure is a chemical reaction to combine the two gas elements (SciShow 3). Its purpose is that it enabled people to produce fertilizer in masses because the reaction resulted in the production of ammonia (Chaban and Prezhdo 2623). A key factor to consider is that the Haber and Bosch is founded on the apprehension of the Le Chatelier’s principle to counteract the establishment of chemical equilibrium. The Haber-Bosch process makes use of the Le Chatelier principle because, in the process of synthesizing ammonia, there is a balance between the high pressure and the low temperatures. It is, however, critical to highlight that the Haber process has been subject to controversy because many of those who fought against Germany in the First World War were concerned and infuriated by the fact that Fritz Haber was awarded the Novel prize for his work in producing ammonia gas that was a poisonous gas (Leigh 35). The paper will address the environmental effect of the Haber-Bosch process on society because the high input of ammonia gas to the environment is not sustainable with fossil fuels adding to the adverse environmental effects on the ecological systems.
It is undoubted that the Haber-Bosch is perceived to be among the greatest inventions in the twentieth century because it enabled scientists to design a process that would result in a chemical reaction to help feed the world. The result was the Green Revolution that resulted in more advanced agricultural processes and the production of superior plant varieties from the intensive use of fertilizers (Galloway et al. 60). Most of the fertilizers that are currently used in the society are the synthetic types that are based on nitrogen, also referred to as the N-fertilizers. Much of the increase has also been in the form of urea-based fertilizers.
However, the environmental considerations from the production of ammonia have been the major concern in recent years. A majority of the considerations have been on the emissions produced by the fertilizer producing plants and the disposal of waste products (Udvardi et al. 303). It comes from the background that environmentalists have recently intensified efforts to address the pollution resulting from the production of ammonia. The primary issue is that almost half of the fertilizer that is applied in the farms and the agricultural fields is used up by the crops while the rest is lost and causes havoc to the environment (Galloway et al. 61). Small quantities of the poisonous gases that are released into the environment are changed to potent greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide. With the growing challenge of climate change and the role of greenhouse gases on the adverse effects that are perceived, it is understandable why there have been concerns that nitrous oxide resulting from ammonia production is a hazard to the environment.
To further apprehend the adverse effects of ammonia from the It results from the fact that nitrogen is the primary limitation in agricultural produce and plant productivity in general. The Haber-Bosch process that makes use of the gas has been of controversy because nitrogen is a major economic and energy input in agricultural activities and agrosystems but is also a source of environmental pollution because of the leaching losses and gaseous output that results. The concern is that it is estimated that in the current society, agriculture makes use of over 100 million metric tons of synthetic types of fertilizers annually (Udvardi et al. 303). The challenge to the environment is that the increased usage in an effort to meet the rising food demand across the world has been the flux of n nitrogen from the terrestrial N-cycle. The adverse effect is that the production of the fertilizers based on the Haber-Bosch process makes use of a huge amount of fossil fuel energy, and as a result, there is further addition of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which only furthers the level of pollution to the environment. Further concerns by environmentalists on the relevance of the Haber-Bosch is that the distribution and mechanical activities involved in applying the synthetic fertilizers on the environment add to the pollution because of the use of fossil fuels as carbon dioxide is emitted to the atmosphere (Galloway et al. 60).
The other major concern has been on the increased in the occurrence of harmful algal blooms (HABs) on the water bodies, especially those that receive runoffs that are polluted by the nutrients. A majority of the plants, such as the phytoplankton causing HABs have since adjusted to develop adaptive strategies that enable them to thrive in conditions with increased levels of nitrogen (Glibert et al. 2). All the processes have been the resultant effect of the large-scale commercialization of the Haber-Bosch process that has resulted in intensified use of nitrogen fertilizers without much regard on the effects on the water bodies. Among the various impacts are pathways that result in the enrichment of nitrogen in the lakes, coastal rivers, and lakes (Glibert et al. 3). The effect of direct runoff has particularly been a major factor as it is supposed to range up to about 40 percent of the inputs perceived in the large rivers and related water bodies. Further atmospheric volatization of the ammonia that is emitted in the atmosphere has been of major focus because it is washed back to the water bodies when it rains, leading to HAB proliferation.
In summary, the Haber Bosch process is arguably one of the greatest inventions in the current generation from the apprehension that it has resulted in increased agricultural production as a result of ammonia production. However, there have been environmental concerns with the primary concern being the pollution from nitrogen released to the atmosphere as only part of it is absorbed by the plant. Other environmental effects have been focused on the HBAs that result when there is a surface runoff of the nitrogen into large water bodies.
Chaban, Vitaly V., and Oleg V. Prezhdo. “The Haber Process Made Efficient by Hydroxylated Graphene.” Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, vol. 7, no. 13, 2016, pp. 2622–26, doi:10.1021/acs.jpclett.6b01178.
Galloway, James N., et al. “Reactive Nitrogen: Too Much of a Good Thing?” Ambio, vol. 31, no. 2, 2002, pp. 60–63, doi:10.1579/0044-7447-31.2.60.
Glibert, Patricia M., et al. “The Haber Bosch-Harmful Algal Bloom (HB-HAB) Link.” Environmental Research Letters, vol. 9, no. 10, IOP Publishing, 2014, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105001.
Leigh, G. J. “Haber-Bosch and Other Industrial Processes.” Catalysts for Nitrogen Fixation, 2004, pp. 33–54, doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-3611-8_2.
SciShow. Fritz Haber: Great Minds. YouTube, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdEE5uvFhOM.
Udvardi, Michael, et al. “Impacts of Agricultural Nitrogen on the Environment and Strategies to Reduce These Impacts.” Procedia Environmental Sciences, vol. 29, 2015, p. 303, doi:10.1016/j.proenv.2015.07.275.