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Calculations of Free Energy and Keq

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How Does Your Garden Grow?
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How Does Your Garden Grow?

Credit: Gentry George, US Fish and Wildlife
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Expansive_view_of_farm_land_on_coastal_pains.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Rich top soil, abundant rain, the right temperature – all these conditions are needed for a healthy crop. While farmers can’t control the rain and sun, they can have some influence over the soil content. Appropriate use of fertilizers can significantly increase the crop yield and the farmer’s income.

News You Can Use

  • Estimates indicate that between 30-50% of all crop yields are due to the use of some form of fertilizer. Since continued farming of a piece of land will eventually result depletion of needed nutrients, material must be added back to the soil in order to have continued success in growing crops.
  • Perhaps the major nutrient that needs to be replaced in nitrogen. This constituent can be obtained from ammonium salts (either ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate). Both salts require ammonia as a source, usually produced by the Haber process. This industrial method uses nitrogen and hydrogen in the gas phase. By tweaking both temperature and pressure, a reasonable yield of ammonia can be obtained even though the equilibrium constant would favor the reverse reaction at high temperature.
  • Ammonium nitrate can be very explosive when detonated with a shock wave. There have been explosions at a few ammonium nitrate production facilities or storage areas. Terrorists have also used ammonium nitrate in their activities. As a result, purchases of this fertilizer are carefully monitored by government agencies.
  • Credit: isafmedia
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/isafmedia/5451613023/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    A soldier is learning to detect ammonium nitrate, which is a common ingredient in home-made explosives [Figure2]

     

  • Watch a video about fertilizer manufacture at the link below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF8P-a9AqGA

Show What You Know

Use the links below to learn more about fertilizers. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What are the two major nitrogen-based fertilizers?
  2. Does the equilibrium between nitrogen, hydrogen, and ammonia favor ammonia formation at a high temperature or a low temperature?
  3. What advantage would the electrolytic ammonia process have over other methods?
  4. Why is phosphate run-off from fertilizers an environmental problem?
  5. Are there problems with the heavy metal content of fertilizers?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Gentry George, US Fish and Wildlife; Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Expansive_view_of_farm_land_on_coastal_pains.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: isafmedia; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/isafmedia/5451613023/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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