THE SPECIAL EXHIBITION „GREEN CLOVER AND DYNAMITE - NITROGEN AND LIFE“ TELLS THE EXCITING STORY OF NITROGEN WITH MANY UNIQUE DISPLAY ITEMS

Visitors of all age groups experience in an entertaining way, besides the known ones, many new aspects, positive and negative, of this ubiquitous substance and are motivated to participate and to reflect.  Medieval  laboratories of the alchemists and saltpeter collectors are stimulatingly contrasted with modern “high tech”.  Many interactive elements make this unusual substance and its history understandable.

While the atmosphere contains elemental nitrogen in abundance everywhere, reactive nitrogen, the motor of all biological growth, is scarce in Nature.

Food production was limited for centuries through the natural limit of (reactive) nitrogen. Thanks to the Haber-Bosch synthesis nitrogen fertilizer can be produced out of air and natural gas. This invention is often and correctly designated as one of the most important of the 20th century.  Why? – this one learns in the exhibition.

Namely, with it the harvests on the cultivated areas back then could be doubled worldwide and previously non-tillable areas could be used agriculturally. The enormous population growth, today 7 billion people live on the Earth, would not have been possible without this process.

ile earlier there was indeed too little reactive nitrogen for mankind and his food production, this is now in many ecosystems too much of it. But the planet Earth cannot accomodate an arbitrarily increasing amount of nitrogen. And the unlimited growing population generates political and ecological conflicts.

In addition the Haber-Bosch-process quite literally delivers an explosive substance: reactive nitrogen is the starting material for almost all conventional explosives. Thus road, railroad and tunnel construction would not have progressed so  rapidly without this. The great wars of the 20th century  would probably have taken place without the Haber-Bosch-process, however, they probably would have been shorter, because the ammunition would have run out faster.

The exhibition shows that the story of nitrogen is more and more influenced by people. And the future will also depend on us, on our technical fantasy and our political courage. While a hundred years ago it was a question of overcoming limits, in the future it will also be a question of setting limits for ourselves: namely there where the natural limits have been removed.