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5 Chemistry breakthroughs that shaped our modern world

Did you know the single most important reason for the explosion of the world’s population from 1.6 billion to 7 billion in 1900 is the discovery of ammonia? You didn’t know that right? Obviously yes, because the chemistry news doesn’t get the same coverage as the physics projects. Since most people do not have an idea of how chemistry contributes to the world, we’ve pulled together five chemistry breakthroughs that shaped our modern world.

  1. Penicillin

Without Penicillin a prick from a thorn or a sore throat could’ve easily killed you. It’s indeed is a saviour. In September 1928 Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming. It was successfully used in the first human in 1940 after it effectively cured mice in the same year. Humans no longer die of minor bacterial infections. Thanks to Penicillin!

  1. The Haber-Bosch process

In ancient times, a major limiting factor in agriculture was plants couldn’t extract nitrogen from the air. So in 1910, German chemists Carl Bosch and Fritz Haber combined atmospheric hydrogen and nitrogen into ammonia which in turn can be used as crop fertilizer. This process came to be known as The Haber-Bosch process which has been an important factor in the explosion of population in the past 100 years. 

  1. Polythene

In 1898, Hans von Pechmann accidentally discovered polythene when he was studying something completely different. He and his fellow scientists found it to be very long molecular chains which were later termed polymethylene. The study of the substance was put to halt in 1933. Later, Imperial Chemical Industries were able to produce plastic products of that substance.

  1. LCD Screen

This flat-screen colour display which plays a major role in our life in the 21st century dates back to the late 1960s in Britain. British Ministry of Defense wanted cathode ray tubes to be replaced by flat screens. LCDs were possible but it worked only in high temperatures. In 1970, George Gray at the University of Hull invented a molecule known as 5CB and gifted us with the LCD screen.

  1. Radiation

In 1856, Henry Becquerel was studying the properties of x-rays. He conducted an experiment on photographic plates using potassium uranyl sulphate in which he wrapped the plates in black paper and exposed it to sunlight. This experiment did not meet his expectations and failed. He kept on conducting experiments and finally discovered that uranium was emitting radiation without the help of the sun which led to him discovering Radioactivity.

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