the world as we know it would not exist without chemical suppliers

Did you know that the discovery of a method to make ammonia is the most important reason why the world’s population has soared from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7 billion today? Or polyethylene, the most common plastic in the world, was accidentally invented twice?

Chances are you don’t, because chemistry is often overlooked compared to other sciences. No chemist is in the top 50 Twitter science stars in Science magazine. Chemistry News just didn’t get the same coverage as the physics project, even though the project was about landing a chemical laboratory on a comet.

So the Royal Society of Chemistry decided to study what people really think about chemistry, chemists and chemicals. It turns out that most people do not know what chemists do, nor do they know the contribution of chemistry to the modern world.
This is really a pity, because the world as we know it would not exist without chemical suppliers. The following are the four major chemical inventions I have listed, and they have created the world you live in.

1. Penicillin

It is possible that penicillin saved your life. Without it, a stinging throat can easily become fatal. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928 when he observed how mold growing in a petri dish inhibited the growth of nearby bacteria. However, despite his best efforts, he did not extract any usable penicillin. Fleming gave up, and the story of penicillin was interrupted for another 10 years. It was not until 1939 that Australian pharmacologist Howard Flory and his team of chemists found a way to purify penicillin in usable quantities.

However, with the raging of World War II, the supply of scientific equipment was insufficient. Therefore, the team pieced together a fully functional penicillin production plant with bathtubs, milk mixers and bookshelves. Not surprisingly, the media is very excited about this new miraculous drug, but Flory and his colleagues are quite shy and public. Instead, Fleming became the focus.

In 1944, when chemical engineer Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau converted Flory’s Heath Robinson design into a mass production plant, full production of penicillin began NS.

2. Haber-Bosch process

Nitrogen plays a vital role in biochemistry. It is also the most common gas in our atmosphere. But nitrogen does not like to react with too much, which means that plants and animals cannot extract it from the air. Therefore, a major limiting factor in agriculture is the availability of nitrogen.

In 1910, German chemists Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch changed all of this. They synthesized ammonia from atmospheric nitrogen and hydrogen. This, in turn, can be used as crop fertilizer and ultimately filtered to us through the food chain.

Today, 80% of the nitrogen in our body comes from the Hubble-Bosch process, making this single chemical reaction the most important factor in the population explosion in the past 100 years.

3. Polyethylene-an accidental invention

Most common plastic products, from water pipes to food packaging and safety helmets, are in the form of polyethylene. The 80 million tons of this material per year is the result of two accidental discoveries.

The first happened in 1898, when German chemist Hans von Pechmann was studying something completely different when he noticed a waxy substance on the bottom of his test tube. He and his colleagues studied together and found that it is composed of very long molecular chains, which they call polymethylene. The method they used to make plastic is not particularly practical, just like the story of penicillin, no progress has been made for a long time.

In 1933, a chemist at a chemical company named ICI discovered a completely different method of manufacturing plastic. They noticed the same waxy substance as von Pechmann while studying the high-pressure reaction. In the beginning, they did not replicate this effect until they noticed that during the initial reaction, oxygen had leaked into the system. Two years later, ICI turned this accidental discovery into a practical method to produce ordinary plastics that you can almost easily get.

4. Birth control pills and Mexican yam

In the 1930s, doctors learned about the potential of hormone therapy in the treatment of cancer, menstrual disorders, and of course contraception. However, due to the time-consuming and inefficient method of synthesizing hormones, research and treatment have been hindered. At that time, the price of progesterone was equivalent to $1,000 per gram (calculated at today’s price), but now, the same amount of progesterone can be bought for just a few dollars.

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