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Fritz Haber Alfred Nobel And the explosives industry.

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1 Fritz Haber Alfred Nobel And the explosives industry

2 Explosives These are chemicals that react very rapidly when stimulated in the correct and controlled manner. There are two main types Those that release large amounts of gas very rapidly Those that release large amounts of energy very rapidly

3 Mechanism of an explosive Detonation is usually caused by a shock or electrically sensitive compound being stimulated into decomposing rapidly This sets off the main explosive which is much less sensitive but much more powerful. Fuse ----- detonator ------ dynamite

4 History China – (10th century) Was thought to be the inventor of the first explosive gunpowder – a mixture of potassium nitrate, sulphur and charcoal (carbon). By the 12th century it had arrived in Europe, This was the dominating explosive throughout the middle ages and forged a route for western colonisation of India, Africa and South America.

5 New explosives With chemistry investigations proceeding rapidly during the 18th and 19th century many new unstable substances were discovered. Nitroglycerine (Ascanio Sobrero, 1846) Picric acid Tri-Nitro Toluene (TNT) 1902 Ammonium nitrate (Amotal)

6 Manufacture and use All of the explosives contain either the nitro- NO 2 group or the nitrate NO 3 group of atoms. To make them you need nitric acid HNO 3

7 Nitroglycerine This is a very unstable compound that was used as an explosive for many years causing innumerable deaths

8 Alfred Nobel Alfred Nobel’s family had a nitroglycerine business After several fatal explosions in the factory (one of which killed his brother) he set out to find a way to make nitroglycerine safe to handle. He invented the blasting cap (using gunpowder) He invented dynamite

9 Nobel’s contribution Alfred Nobel made high explosives freely available allowing: Use of high explosives in war Engineering projects such as dams for irrigation, bridges, railways, mines and road-building became possible.

10 19th and 20th century politics Europe, for the past 1000 years has been politically very unstable with many wars between neighbouring countries. Although a lot of damage can be caused with gunpowder and steel the new explosives brought warfare into a new dimension….. At the beginning of the 20th century the European map looked like 


12 Raw materials To make explosives you need nitrates… Chile Saltpetre NaNO 3 India Bengal saltpetre Ca(NO 3 ) 2 Guanine (from guana) And they come from………………..



15 Guanine comes from guana

16 And guana comes from

17 The Germans needed

18 And to manufacture munitions they needed the raw materials to which they had no access because of the naval blockade.

19 So they called on

20 Among which was Fritz Haber

21 The Haber process Fritz Haber, a chemist, recognised that Germany’s requirement of nitrates for explosives could come from the oxidation of ammonia: Ammonia + oxygen  nitrogen oxide + water Nitrogen oxide + water + oxygen  Nitric acid Nitric acid  explosives

22 The problem Ammonia could be made from nitrogen and hydrogen, both of which were freely available in Germany… BUT The reaction N 2 + 3H 2  2NH 3 is very difficult and inefficient

23 The Haber process So Haber developed the process by which… 1.He used pressure to push the reaction to the right hand side 2.He used a catalyst to speed the reaction up 3.He liquefied the ammonia to remove it from the reaction as soon as it was formed, preventing its decomposition.


25 Result? This allowed Germany to fight the war for four years from 1914 to 1918 Fritz Haber was put in charge of Germany’s chemical weapons program Some of the consequences……….

26 The Somme 1st July 1916: after a week long bombardment of the German frontline, nearly 100,000 British soldiers rose from their trenches and marched into No Man's Land.

27 The Somme

28 Wave after wave of British infantry rose from their trenches and walked forward. but they advanced to their deaths: the German machine-gun nests had survived and so had much of the wire, blasted into even more impenetrable tangle. The British army suffered the highest Losses it had ever taken in a single day, 57,000 deaths…

29 The Somme The territorial gains were unspectacular: along a 48-km (30 mile) front the greatest penetration was about 11 km (7 miles) deep and had no strategic significance. The British Empire had sustained 450,000 casualties and the French suffered about 150,000. German losses exceeded 600,000. All in all....

30 Casualties Austria-Hungary: 2,300,000 dead Belgium: 88,000 dead Britain & Empire: 908,371 dead Bulgaria: 14,000 dead France & Empire: 1,327,000 dead Germany: 1,773,700 dead

31 Greece: 5,000 dead Italy: 460,000 dead Portugal: 7,000 dead Romania: 219,800 dead Russia: 1,700,000 dead Serbia: 45,000 dead Turkey: 236,000 dead USA: 50,585 dead TOTAL: 12,599,000 deaths

32 Poisonous gases Fritz Haber continued working as a chemist and was responsible for the development of Zyklon B during the first world war as a poison gas weapon…


34 Zyklon B Zyklon B was later put to an even more notorious use….

35 The concentration camps Dachau Auschwitz Treblinka Buchenwald And many more Used Zyklon B (among other gases) to kill the prisoners in the concentration camps


37 So where’s the good? Ammonia is also a raw material in the manufacture of..... Ammonium sulphate Ammonium nitrate Ammonium chloride Ammonium phosphate all used for…

38 Fertilizers

39 Which have saved millions of lives in countries all over the world..

40 Haber Fritz Haber’s wife could not take the stress and pressure of living with a man who was (she thought) responsible for so many deaths – she committed suicide. Haber resigned after the Nazis came to power (he was Jewish) and fled to England in 1933 where he died depressed one year later.

41 Nobel Nobel became a fabulously wealthy man from his inventions but became increasingly depressed with what he saw to be his culpability in the evils of warfare. He left a large amount of money to fund the Nobel prizes that are awarded every year for people that have “conferred the greatest benefit for mankind”

42 One World Essay Title: The explosives industry You can use the biographies of Haber and Nobel to exemplify the ethics and morals involved. You should include: 1.The chemistry of explosives 2.Their uses in society 3.Their dangers to society 4.Suggestions for their use You should address the following question: “Were Nobel and Haber justified in feeling depressed about their contributions to society and humanity?”

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