- The Haber process is named after its developer, German chemist Fritz Haber (1868-1934).
- Haber developed the process at the beginning of the twentieth century, leading up to the First World War.
- At this time, nations such as Germany imported the nitrates that they required for fertilisers and explosives from South America.
- Growing world populations were placing strains on this natural source.
- Furthermore, in Germany, growing militancy was promoting calls for more explosives, creating further demand for natural nitrate resources.
- In 1908, Haber first developed a catalytic method of synthesising ammonia from its elements.
- By 1914, German chemical engineer Carl Bosch had assisted Haber in converting the method into an industrial process.
- During the First World War, British naval blockades prevented most of the South American nitrates from reaching Germany.
- The Haber process allowed the production of fertilisers and explosives to continue in Germany.
- The food and munitions that the Haber process allowed to be produced sustained Germany’s war effort and prolonged the war.
The apparatus used by Haber to first synthesise ammonia