At a more general level, one can compare changes to the biogeochemical cycling of nitrogen facilitated by the Haber-Bosch process with changes to the biogeochemical cycling of carbon resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.
Only with the development of the Haber-Bosch process did concerns associated with limited supplies of nitrogen come to an end.
For example, Harry Curtis, who was involved in the unsuccessful effort to replicate the Haber-Bosch process for the United States military in World War I, published a 1932 volume on the nitrogen industry in which he noted that at "the beginning of the present century there existed a nitrogen problem.
The inexpensive ammonia produced by the Haber-Bosch process also affected urban practices: it reduced the incentive for large cities to cycle their sewage back to agricultural land, which--through the development of activated sludge wastewater treatment systems --had become technically feasible just after the introduction of the Haber-Bosch process.
In the end, a century of experience with the Haber-Bosch process suggests that societies are not only learning to establish societal-defined limits to compensate for the loss of bacteria-based limits but are also developing better ways to produce knowledge essential to that task.
The Haber-Bosch process for synthesizing ammonia on an industrial scale represents as significant an innovation as any in the 20th century.
Chemists have long sought substitutes for the Haber-Bosch process, which works most efficiently at temperatures between 400[degrees]C and 500[degrees]C and at pressures around 400 times that of the atmosphere at sea level.
The relative ease and possible energy efficiency of the new nitrogen-splitting technique may still not be enough to displace the Haber-Bosch process, says Michael D.