Science: Catalysis

The old complaint that things can't be run on air is thoroughly exploded. Chemists have for years been making some most important compounds out of the raw material of air. "Free" oxygen and nitrogen in the air, for instance, can be "fixed" by a gigantic electric arc into nitric oxide, from which nitric acid and nitrates (valuable fertilizers) are made.

Then in 1914 Fritz Haber, clever German necromancer, found that nitrogen gas can be captured in another way—by combining it with hydrogen to form ammonia. Instead of electricity, the Haber process makes use...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!