In 1908, a German Chemist Fritz Haber (1868~1934) had discovered the Haber process which is considered one of the crucial invention in the 20th century. At that time, the major method to produce the ammonia was extracting from the nature Chile saltpeter, which is sodium nitrate. Ammonia is very useful materials, that is used for washing, chemical fertilizer and an explosive compound. Thus, it is used for wide range of purposes. However, it was hard for getting the ammonia by abstracting it from the Chile saltpeter for two major reasons. One is that Chile peter is located in the cave wall so that it was hard for mining it.
Another reason is that for producing the ammonia, people needed to decompose the large amount of excrements from the animal. At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a concerned raised that since the agriculture has been increased a lot in worldwide, the ammonia supply was scanty. Thus the supply could not be satisfied as the farmers demanded. The invention that Haber made was using the production way for producing the lots of ammonia plentifully.
He extracted the hydrogen gas from the methane, then make it to have a chemical reaction with the nitrogen in the atmosphere. In order to accomplish this, the Catalyst is needed. During the experiment, Haber realized that iron is the best Catalyst, so that he used high pressure to have chemical reaction between hydrogen and nitrogen with iron, and produced huge amount of NH3, which is ammonia. Manufacturing the ammonia makes people to produce soluble nitrogen containing fertilizers, which have revolutionized agriculture and led to enormous increases in food production. It is a based on the reversible equation which is nitrogen + hydrogen ? ammonia.
At room temperature with having the normal pressure is not producing the ammonia. This Haber changed the conditions so that the forward reaction was favored. The forward reaction of the Haber process is exothermic, so a low temperature will promote this and yield more ammonia at equilibrium. Thus, a medium temperature, about 450 C is chosen. A high pressure of 200 atmospheres is normally used, since increasing the pressure will lead to more ammonia at equilibrium. Catalyst is also important for its reaction.
Without a catalyst, which is iron for this reaction, the reactions in both the forward and reverse directions will be very slow. Thus the Catalysts helps the reaction reach equilibrium with a fast speed. After two years later, in 1910, the method translated by the Carl Bosch, who is German chemist into a large scale of process by using the catalyst, and also high pressure methods. In 1918, Fritz Haber got the Nobel Prize for his research achievement. The Haber process was very affected for the farming. Having the increased amount of the food allowed the people to swell to huge amount of size. Thus, the population as a whole increases due to the mass production of food. Most of the people believed that ceasing the using of fertilizers for producing the ammonia would highly lead to the big starvation.
It also helped to the run off fertilizer and pollution. The plants often absorbs their nutrients through the chemical fertilizer with too much amount and too fast speed. Thus, the high amount of the fertilizer was getting wasted. The nitrogen fertilizer helped soil to develop their mobility, so that is passes through the plants and get into ground polluting water or is eroded into surface streams. The dead zone of the big ocean are the result of nitrogen, other fertilizers and farm chemicals ends in the watersheds of oceans.
However, it was highly controversial that the committee of the Nobel Prize decided to award the Fritz Haber. Even though it was true that he was a man who had provided the benefit for the human for their lives as the ammonia synthesis is telling, he contributed to the production of chemical weapons which were so dangerous, and also worked as the major compound of weapons in WWI and WWII. There were many people who disagreed with the decision that Nobel Prize committee made. During the World War I (1914), Haber was put in charge of the development of raw materials for the German. For his part of the work, as a patriotic obligation, he found out that his chemical expertise can be used for killing the people since it produces the poisonous chlorine gases. It was used to kill the enemy as the role of weapons.
Another ethical issue that is criticizing the Heber is the problem between him and his wife, Clara Immerwahr, who is a German chemist. She was the first women chemist who got the doctorate in the chemistry field by showing her research about the solubility of metal salts. She did not like Heber’s research on chemical warfare, so she tried to stop him from working on it. However, Haber did not listen to her and treated her as a protest treasonous to the Germany. In 1915, during the WWI, the chlorine gases that Haber invented was firstly used. 10 days after first use of chlorine gases, Clara committed the suicide since she found out that she cannot live with this evil man anymore.
As it mentioned above, Haber process has been criticized in an ethical way after he got the Nobel prize. There is also another scientific approach that is criticized same as Haber process. The Human Genome Project (HGP), which is part of the biology approach is the one of the example. It is an international research effort that has been determined the sequence of all genetic content of the chromosomes of the human.
Even though the HGP database provide the advantage of society, which is able to identify the disease risk and physiological response to medication, there is an issue within an ethical way. The HGP database could lead the job discrimination. If diagnosis for disease genes become more commonly spread in our world, and also if the genetic profiles for individual could be known for the people, it will be extremely hard for people to find their career and getting the insurance due to the report that showing the risk of getting diseases. Due to this discrimination, many people could be left with having no jobs and health insurance system after they have been diagnosed with some percentage of chance in getting cancer. This can be a serious issue for people who have genetic disease in their family since it could change their future, as well as their future children, due to the genetic transition. In conclusion, even though Haber process is a one of the crucial approach that made our world to be more easier, mostly in an agriculture process, it has been criticized in an ethical way since it has been used for chemical weapons in the World War, which is used in the Germany for torturing the Jews people, and led many victims and casualties during the war.