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Haber-Bosch process has often been called the most important invention of the 20th century

this ties in with the earlier post on Peak Phosphorus

from Juergen Schmidhuber’s site

Since age 15 or so Prof. J├╝rgen Schmidhuber’s main scientific ambition has been to build an optimal scientist, then retire. In 2028 they will force him to retire anyway. By then he shall be able to buy hardware providing more raw computing power than his brain

Their Haber-Bosch process has often been called the most important invention of the 20th century (e.g., V. Smil, Nature, July 29 1999, p 415) as it “detonated the population explosion,” driving the world’s population from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 6 billion in 2000.

Haber-Bosch process:

Under high temperatures and very high pressures, hydrogen and nitrogen (from thin air) are combined to produce ammonia.

Nearly one century after its invention, the process is still applied all over the world to produce 500 million tons of artificial fertilizer per year. 1% of the world’s energy supply is used for it (Science 297(1654), Sep 2002); it still sustains roughly 40% of the population (M. D. Fryzuk, Nature 427, p 498, 5 Feb 2004).

http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/worldpopgrowth1.jpg

http://www.idsia.ch/~juergen/

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