Ticket Side Event Harnack House – 6 May 2020
“Time travel from Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch to future nitrogen challenges”
About 100 years ago, German chemist Fritz Haber invented artificial ammonia fixation. Together with Carl Bosch at BASF, they developed an industrial process to produce reactive nitrogen in large quantities. Since then, nitrogen as a nutrient in food production has become increasingly available for agricultural systems. The decreasing limitations of nitrogen fertilizer abundance in many parts of the world at the same time led to a rapid and continuous growth of the world population. Today, ammonia synthesis consumes between 2-3 % of global energy demand. At the same time, nitrogen is used ineffectively and the vast losses result in many environmental problems.
With their invention, Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch decoupled the natural limitations of a biogeochemical nitrogen cycle that had so far effectively been closed. From our current standpoint, it looks as if industrial fixation unleashed a self-energizing system with a scenario of about 10 billion people in 2050 that will have to be fed. Quoting famous German poet Goethe and his Sorcerer’s Apprentice seems an appropriate way to describe this development: “The spirits I have called, I cannot drive away.”
At Harnack House, the former guest house and conference venue of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (now Max Planck Society) in Berlin-Dahlem, we would like to reflect with you on the history of Fritz Haber and ammonia synthesis and risk a look into the future and further development of nitrogen management.
Let us get together there and follow in the footsteps of Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Fritz Haber, Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner and Max Planck, who all came to Harnack House for social gatherings and scientific colloquia.
We would like to end the evening with a reception with drinks and snacks.