Miscellany | Published:


Nature volume 101, pages 188192 (09 May 1918) | Download Citation



THE present position of nitrogen fixation in this country was stated in the House of Commons on May 2 by Mr. Kellaway, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions, in reply to a question by Sir William Beale. The various proposals for fixing nitrogen have been examined in detail by the Nitrogen Products Committee of the Munitions Inventions Department, and, as a result, intensive research has been concentrated upon the Haber process. A research staff composed entirely of young British scientific workers has accumulated the knowledge requisite to the translation of the vague outlines of this process of ammonia synthesis, as revealed in the patents of the German industrial concerns, into a commercially practicable process. This has involved two years of unremitting laboratory research, during which period numerous departmental patents have been taken out for improvements in ammonia synthesis, as well as in the subsidiary branches of the problem, such as hydrogen manufacture. These patents are held in the names of the members of the research staff, and are assigned to the Secretary of State for War. The research work of the staff of the Munitions Inventions Department is now far advanced, so that the results have been placed at the disposal of the Explosives Department for application on a factory scale. The manufacturing operations will be conducted at present for war purposes, the production of synthetic ammonia being applicable to the manufacture of explosives, as well as to the production of ammonium sulphate for agriculture. The results of the research work on synthetic ammonia have not been made public, but may be communicated confidentially to concerns proposing to erect plant under financial arrangements approved by the Treasury. The availability to manufacturers, of the general research work of the staff of the Munitions Inventions Department is now being considered by committees representing the several departments-concerned.

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