In the form of sal-ammoniac (nushadir) ammonia was important to the Muslim alchemists as early as the 8th century, first mentioned by the Persian chemist Jābir ibn Hayyān, and to the European alchemists since the 13th century, being mentioned by Albertus Magnus. It was also used by dyers in the Middle Ages in the form of fermented urine to alter the colour of vegetable dyes. In the 15th century, Basilius Valentinus showed that ammonia could be obtained by the action of alkalis on sal-ammoniac. At a later period, when sal-ammoniac was obtained by distilling the hooves and horns of oxen and neutralizing the resulting carbonate with hydrochloric acid, the name "spirit of hartshorn" was applied to ammonia.
The Haber-Bosch process to produce ammonia from the nitrogen 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, following the allied blockade that cut off the supply of nitrates from Chile. The ammonia was used to produce explosives to sustain their war effort.
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