Ammonia and Haber Process

Edited by Jamie (ScienceAid Editor)

The Haber Process

This is the process by which ammonia (NH3) is produced. The equation for this reaction is:

equation for the haber process

The symbol you see in the middle means it is a reversible reaction, so the product can decompose back into the reactants. Optimum conditions must be selected to achieve the greatest yield. When the forward and backward reactions are the same, it is said to be in a state of dynamic equilibrium.

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The position of this dynamic equilibrium can be moved forward by changing the conditions of the reaction. This follows Le Chatelier's Principle which says changes to a system in equilibrium will move it in an opposite direction.

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Condition Effect
Pressure Increasing this will improve the yield because the forward reaction reduces pressure. However, increasing the pressure too far is impractical and becomes too expensive because special instruments must be used to withstand the forces.
Temperature A higher yield can be obtained by using a low temperature since the forward reaction produces heat, but this also will make the reaction slower, and less profitable so a temperature of about 450°C is optimal.
Catalyst The Haber Process makes use of iron to speed up the reaction - but this doesn't improve the yield. To discover more about reaction rates, see rates of reaction.

The conditions of the Haber Process must be finely balanced to reach a combination of highest yield, and fastest reaction, this is very important because getting this right will make sure this industrial process is as profitable as possible.

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Fertilizers

Ammonia is used in the production of fertilizers. A nitrogenous fertilizers is manufactured by neutralizing ammonia with nitric acid.

nitric acid + ammonia ==>> ammonium nitrate HNO3 (aq) + NH3 (aq) ==>> NH4NO3 (aq)

These fertilizers promote growth of plants, but, as the adage goes, for every action there is a reaction - this can cause problems.

  1. 1
    Nitrates are very soluble, and are washed out of soil by rain, where they may travel to a lake, river, pond etc.
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  2. 2
    The fertilizer causes a large boom in plant growth, but this boom is followed by a fall in plant life.
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  3. 3
    All of the dead material from the fall in plant life, causes decay by bacteria that use up the oxygen in the water, The results of this is aquatic animals that rely on oxygen in the water will die.
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