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How a century of ammonia synthesis changed the world

On 13 October 1908, Fritz Haber filed his patent on the “synthesis of ammonia from its elements” for which he was later awarded the 1918 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. A hundred years on we live in a world transformed by and highly dependent upon Haber–Bosch nitrogen.

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Figure 1: Trends in human population and nitrogen use throughout the twentieth century.
Figure 2: Global nitrogen fertilizer consumption scenarios (left) and the impact of individual drivers on 2100 consumption (right).

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We acknowledge financing from the European Commission for the NitroEurope Integrated Project, the European Science Foundation for the NinE programme and the COST programme (European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research) for COST 729. This article was prepared as a contribution to the International Nitrogen Initiative and the Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

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Correspondence to Jan Willem Erisman.

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Erisman, J., Sutton, M., Galloway, J. et al. How a century of ammonia synthesis changed the world. Nature Geosci 1, 636–639 (2008).

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