Apparatus for the production of catalysts used to initiate water-gas shift reactions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Fixed Nitrogen Research Laboratory located in Washington, D.C. The water-gas shift reaction describes the reaction of carbon monoxide and water vapor to form carbon dioxide and hydrogen (the mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen is known as water gas). It is an important industrial reaction used in the manufacture of ammonia, hydrocarbons, methanol, and hydrogen and came into popular use in the early 20th century amidst the development of industrial processes, such as the Haber–Bosch ammonia synthesis, that required hydrogen.
The Fixed Nitrogen Research Laboratory (F.N.R.L.) was established at American University in 1919 under the directorship of Arthur B. Lamb. Initially part of the War Department, the F.N.R.L. was the successor to several wartime initiatives to develop a secure domestic supply of nitrate compounds necessary for the manufacture of explosives during World War I. With a staff of about 110 individuals, including 35 to 50 chemists, the F.N.R.L. focused on the manufacture, production, and development of products of atmospheric nitrogen, including munitions and fertilizers.
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“Apparatus for Water-Gas Catalysts,” circa 1928. Travis P. Hignett Collection of Fixed Nitrogen Research Laboratory Photographs, Box 1. Science History Institute. Philadelphia. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/3n203z25s.
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