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Haber Process for the Production of Ammonia

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Haber Process for the Production of Ammonia During World War I Germans needed Nitrogen to produce explosive. Owing to the blockage of supply of ammonia, Germans were looking for methods of preparation of large-scale production of ammonia. In 1909 Fritz Haber described the process by combining nitrogen and hydrogen. This process is called Heber Process. Later on Carl Bosch developed the Haber synthesis into an industrial process. Raw Materials: * The raw materials for creating ammonia are air for nitrogen N2 (g) and methane and water for hydrogen H2 (g). CH4 (g) + H2O (g) Ni catalyst ----------> 700oC CO (g) + 3H2(g) * Methane CH4 (g) is reacted with steam H2O (g) to give carbon dioxide CO2 (g) and hydrogen H2 (g). 2CH4(g) + O2 (g) + 4N2(g) (air) Ni catalyst ---------> 2CO(g) + 4H2(g) + 4N2(g) * Carbon monoxide (CO) in the mixture is oxidised to CO2 using steam and an iron oxide catalyst: CO (g) + H2O (g) Iron oxide catalyst ------------------> H2 (g) + CO2 (g) * The nitrogen N2 (g) is obtained from the air by fractional distillation, because the air is made up of 80% nitrogen. ...read more.


against the equilibrium of the reaction (pushed to the right by decreasing temperatures) 2. Catalyst: It was observed by Haber that using an iron oxide catalyst eliminates the need for excessively high temperatures, allowing the equilibrium position to move quickly to the right at lower temperatures Therefore for this process a catalyst (iron or osmium) is used. This speeds up the reaction by lowering the activation energy. This helps by breaking the N2 bonds and H2 bonds more readily. 3. Pressure: According to Le Chetalier's Principle Increasing the pressure causes the equilibrium position to move to the right resulting in a higher yield of ammonia since there are more gas molecules on the left hand side of the equation (4 in total) than there are on the right hand side of the equation (2). Increasing the pressure means the system adjusts to reduce the effect of the change, that is, to reduce the pressure by having fewer gas molecules. The equilibrium expression for this reaction is: Keq = [NH3] 2 / [N2][H2] 3 Rate considerations: * Increasing the temperature gives more reactant molecules having sufficient energy activation energy to overcome the energy barrier to reacting. ...read more.


However, every good discovery has its disadvantages, and the Haber process is no exception. 1. Overuse of ammonia fertilisers on fields can cause major environmental problems. 2. Ammonium salts are water-soluble and get washed into the groundwater, rivers and streams by rain contaminating them with ammonium ions and nitrate ions. This contamination causes several problems. 3. Excess fertilisers in streams and rivers cause eutrophication. 4. Overuse of fertilisers causes increasing quantities dissolving in rainwater. i. This increases levels of nitrate or phosphate in rivers and lakes. ii. This causes 'algal bloom' i.e. too much rapid growth of water plants on the surface where the sunlight is the strongest. iii. This prevents light from reaching plants lower in the water. iv. These lower plants decay and the active aerobic bacteria use up any dissolved oxygen. v. This means any microorganisms or higher life forms relying on oxygen cannot respire. vi. All the eco-cycles are affected and fish and other respiring aquatic animals die. vii. The river or stream becomes 'dead' below the surface as all the food webs are disrupted. 5. Nitrates are potentially carcinogenic (cancer or tumor forming). 6. The presence in drinking water is a health hazard. Rivers and lakes contaminated can be used as initial sources for domestic water supply. ...read more.

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