Crazy research paper on Global Ammonium Nitrate Production (haber-bosch process)


While having trouble falling asleep the other night I ended up binge reading on the Haber-Bosch process for making ammonium nitrate from atmospheric nitrogen and methane(from natural gas). It’s a pretty crazy topic. Some things I learned

  • Around 50% of the nitrogen in the average human body has been through the Haber-Bosch process.
  • The process was developed in 1909 by german chemist Fritz Haber, and was scaled up to industrial methods in 1910 by Carl Bosch.
  • Over 500 million tons of ammonium nitrate are produced annually as of 2017. About 80% of this is used in fertilizer, and around 20% in explosives for engineering, mining, and weapons.
  • Fertilizer production accounts for about 2% of the global energy usage.

Here’s a great pdf synopsis of Jan Erison & James Galloway’s research on the topic, I managed to grab for free somewhere. (it was behind a journal paywall!)

How a Century of Ammonia Synthesis Changed The World


I’ve been dreaming of using enzymes to replace haber bosch for years (cuz, you know, if some bugs can do it in the ground surely we can figure it out, right?)… if you’ve got a lot of late nights, go see if there’s any progress on that too :slight_smile:

Thanks for sharing!


ooooo000hhhhhhh Greg!!! I love it!!! That’s a wonderful dream. I have some smart biotech friends in Bozeman, Montana, I need to get them thinking about it!! haha, hopefully less late nights. I think that one in particular was ushered in by a cappuccino I had at 2pm in the afternoon, and then I got to lay awake until 5am remembering why I don’t drink coffee…lol


Only skimmed this, but maybe…?


mhmmm, interesting find! I wonder if the microbes survive…it seems like they are designing them to not reproduce in order that they may have a product to sell.