Socio-Scientific Issues in STEM
Education: Chemistry

Using Synthetic Fertilizers from Green Ammonia: Yes or No?

Ammonia is a chemical compound with numerous industrial applications (refrigeration gas, water purification, plastics industry, explosives, textiles, dyes, cleaning products, etc.). Alternative processes have been discussed, regarding the production of ammonia by the Haber-Bosch process, such as the production of green ammonia. 

In agriculture, it is necessary to use fertilizers to increase crop production. These fertilizers are produced in large quantities to meet the world's needs, from ammonia, mainly produced by the Haber-Bosch process. 

A group of young entrepreneurs wants to intervene in an agricultural region with the aim of contributing to more sustainable agriculture. Therefore, they were informed about the work of a group of researchers who have a patent on how to produce green ammonia.

The farmers' community is divided. Some prefer to buy fertilizers produced by the Haber-Bosch process, because they already have suppliers who ensure the supply of this chemical compound. Others are enthusiastic about the idea of practicing a more sustainable agriculture, whose ammonia production is local and from which they can turn it into synthetic fertilizers. Thus, in order to inform the community to be informed and to act with scientific knowledge, the local media mobilized to provide clarification on the situation, organizing a public discussion, mediated by a chemistry teacher. 



Solution 1


Solution 2




SSIs in this Example

Characteristics of SSIs

How to use SSIs in STEM Ed

The controversy in this example: To opt for an installation of a pilot green ammonia production project and its transformation into synthetic fertilizers (solution 1) or import synthetic nitrogen-based fertilizers from ammonia produced by the Haber-Bosch process (solution 2).
What option to take between the production of fertilizers from a pilot project with very low environmental impact or import fertilizers that present guarantees from the point of view of quality and quantity, but more polluting (greenhouse gas production among others)
Comparing the advantages and disadvantages of the two processes, if there is an effective clarification of farmers about good practices in ammonia production and fertilizer production and use, solution 1 brings more benefits to the community and contributes to minimize global warming.


  • SSI have a scientific basis and require people to get involved in discussion and debate.
  • They are sometimes controversial in nature.
  • They require the formation of opinions and decision-making, including scientific, moral, ethical or social reasoning issues.

Dealing with SSIs

  • Dealing with these issues requires the evaluation of incomplete information from contradictory or incomplete evidence and incomplete reports.
  • Often these issues involve a cost-benefit analysis, and risk interacts with ethical reasoning.

The goal is to understand how different opinions evolve and reinforce each other.

  1. Read the text carefully!
  2. How do you position yourself in this context?
  3. Put yourself in the role of a specialist. As you argue...
    1. ... if you oppose the case?
    2. ... if you do not oppose the case?
  4. Do your own research (internet).
  5. Find a list of scientific arguments that favor opposition to the arguments in this case.
  6. Draw up a connection between the case and the scientific facts.
  7. What other aspects influence the perception of this case?

More content