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Haber Process Essay

912 words - 4 pages

The catalyst

The catalyst is actually slightly more complicated than pure iron. It has potassium hydroxide added to it as a promoter - a substance that increases its efficiency.

The pressure

The pressure varies from one manufacturing plant to another, but is always high. You can't go far wrong in an exam quoting 200 atmospheres.


At each pass of the gases through the reactor, only about 15% of the nitrogen and hydrogen converts to ammonia. (This figure also varies from plant to plant.) By continual recycling of the unreacted nitrogen and hydrogen, the overall conversion is about 98%.

Explaining the conditions

The proportions of nitrogen and hydrogen

The ...view middle of the document...

The forward reaction (the production of ammonia) is exothermic.

According to Le Chatelier's Principle, this will be favoured if you lower the temperature. The system will respond by moving the position of equilibrium to counteract this - in other words by producing more heat.

In order to get as much ammonia as possible in the equilibrium mixture, you need as low a temperature as possible. However, 400 - 450°C isn't a low temperature!

Rate considerations

The lower the temperature you use, the slower the reaction becomes. A manufacturer is trying to produce as much ammonia as possible per day. It makes no sense to try to achieve an equilibrium mixture which contains a very high proportion of ammonia if it takes several years for the reaction to reach that equilibrium.

You need the gases to reach equilibrium within the very short time that they will be in contact with the catalyst in the reactor.

The compromise

400 - 450°C is a compromise temperature producing a reasonably high proportion of ammonia in the equilibrium mixture (even if it is only 15%), but in a very short time.

The pressure

Equilibrium considerations

Notice that there are 4 molecules on the left-hand side of the equation, but only 2 on the right.

According to Le Chatelier's Principle, if you increase the pressure the system will respond by favouring the reaction which produces fewer molecules. That will cause the pressure to fall again.

In order to get as much ammonia as possible in the equilibrium mixture, you need as high a pressure as possible. 200 atmospheres is a high pressure, but not amazingly high.

Rate considerations

Increasing the pressure brings the molecules closer together....

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