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Author

Professor Jeffrey Grossman

Grades

12th, AP® / College

Subjects

Science, Chemistry

Regional Focus

Global

Format

Downloadable MP4/M4V

Haber-Bosch and Human Population

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  • This video provides an overview of the Haber-Bosch process in making synthetic fertilizers, which likely contributed to population growth in the 20th century.
  • The video also walks students through the constraints of using the Haber-Bosch process to produce ammonia in the long term.

Positives

  • The video provides a simplified overview of the science behind the green revolution and the population boom in the 20th century.
  • This video includes a real-world example of how chemistry can be used to make improvements in efficiency and production.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The video is from a university lecture and contains some material that may be copyrighted.
  • Before watching the video, students should understand concepts like moles, chemical equations, chemical bonds, limiting reagents, and how to use the periodic table.
  • There were other factors that likely played a much larger role in the exponential increase in human population (e.g., penicillin and other antibiotics, vaccines, better refrigeration, improvements in basic hygiene, and medical interventions that both lowered childhood mortality and extended the lifespan significantly).

Differentiation

  • This video will likely be most useful to advanced chemistry students.
  • Considering the potential repercussions of the Haber-Bosch process on nitrous oxide emissions (a potent greenhouse gas), water pollution, population growth, and the fact that the technology was created for making bombs and chemical weapons, have students investigate other economic, environmental, and social outcomes of the process.
  • History students can research the history of companies such as Bosch and I.G. Farben and their use of this technology during WWII in Germany.
  • Use this interactive lesson to learn more about changes in agricultural practices and population trends.
  • Have students evaluate the relevancy of the simplified model used at the end, which does not take into account the water, land, oxygen, and space required for maintaining other living organisms and the many ecosystems that humans reply on for survival on Earth.
This module on solid-state chemistry gives explanation to the Haber-Bosch process, and relates the importance of nitrogen on the survival of living things including humans. Plants and animals uptake nitrogen to grow and this module uses a balanced chemical reaction to compute how long we can keep taking nitrogen from the atmosphere through fixation to feed the growing population. Hence, the lesson is insightful and recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • English Language Arts
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, qualitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
  • Science
    • PS1: Matter and Its Interactions
      • HS-PS1-2. Construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties.
      • HS-PS1-6. Refine the design of a chemical system by specifying a change in conditions that would produce increased amounts of products at equilibrium.
      • HS-PS1-7. Use mathematical representations to support the claim that atoms, and therefore mass, are conserved during a chemical reaction.
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