Before the start of World War I, most ammonia was obtained by the dry distillation of nitrogenous vegetable and animal products; by the reduction of nitrous acid and nitrites with hydrogen; and also by the decomposition of ammonium salts by alkaline hydroxides or by quicklime.Gaseous ammonia was first isolated by J. Priestley in 1774 and was termed by him “alkaline air.” In 1777 Karl Wilhelm Scheele showed that it contained nitrogen. The Haber process to produce ammonia from the nitrogen contained in the air was developed by Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch in 1909 and patented in 1910. It was first used on an industrial scale by the Germans during World War I. The ammonia was used to produce explosives to sustain their war effort.
Nitric acid history can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages when it was made from a mixture of Saltpeter and sand which was then distilled by a hot fire. The gas cooled and condensed, producing the liquid known as Aqua Fortis or Nitric Acid. It was an important substance for alchemists as it was used to dissolve silver and many other metals. Today, nitric acid is one of the mostly widely used mineral acids in industry, a particularly significant use being in the production of fertilizer. Nitric Acid is also used in the production of explosives such as TNT and also in the purification of metals.