Posted by Jonny Agnew
Fritz Haber. Carl Bosch.
Could be the named partners of a German law firm. Certainly, they do not have the mainstream ring of familiarity that a Thomas Edison or a Henry Ford enjoy. Which feels odd, since our intrepid duo arguably sustained and ergo created life – whereas Edison and Ford “merely” improved it.
Who are they? Two German chemists who are jointly responsible for the synthesis and eventual industrial manufacture of ammonia.
Why is this important? Well, the breakthrough at the time, was described akin to “making bread from air”.
The single biggest restraining factor on the human race at the turn of the 20th century, was a diminishing availability of natural fertilisers for crops. Fertiliser at the time was generally expensive and was formed of natural animal waste (which, of course, is finite and correlated to the availability of crops) and nitrates farmed and imported at great cost from Chile.
Fritz Haber recognised this problem. It vexed him and he understood it to be a serious threat to the human race and life on earth; after all, decreasing crops and harvests can only sustain a diminishing birth rate. In 1913 at the University of Karsluhe, Germany, Haber found a way to extract atmospheric nitrogen and use it to synthesise ammonia fertiliser. Some years later, Carl Bosch applied this chemical reaction to an industrial process at a BASF plant, and enabled the large scale manufacture of ammonia fertiliser.
Considering the Haber Bosch process to be “greater than any other discovery or industrial process over the past 100 years” is surely no exaggeration. Yes, like any cutting edge invention, there are unintended consequences of this discovery such as climate change – but, billions of people are alive as a result of the discovery.
At MOF Technologies, this is what we fervently believe about the MOF. It is surely significant that the Royal Society of Chemistry has labelled MOFs “miracle materials”. For us, it is a question of when and not if, that MOFs play a role in changing the world in which we live.
The diversity of the applications of the MOF continues to astound us on a daily basis. MOFs have the highest surface area of any material known to man, along with being extremely porous. These core traits mean MOF applications are essentially innumerable.
Like Haber and Bosch, we encourage you to think on a large scale. They spotted a real probem – went after it, and fixed it.
Why not change the world through innovation. Through our innovation lab, we will spend time talking to you – and just possibly, we could change the world in which we live.