It is an oxidiser considered relatively safe if uncontaminated and … One of the most recent incidents was in 2015 in the Port of Tianjin, China. 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. "On the one side, the ammonium has hydrogen in it. But how can such a chemical cause such a massive and destructive blast? It may be considered the ammonium analog to potassium nitrate or saltpeter. 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.. Ammonium nitrate is predominantly … * Ammonium nitrate is an industrial chemical commonly used in fertilisers and as an explosive for quarrying and mining. Ammonium nitrate is classified as dangerous goods and all aspects of its use are tightly regulated. 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. 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. In Beirut, it has been reported 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were stored in a warehouse for six years without proper safety controls. For an industrial ammonium nitrate disaster to occur, a lot needs to go wrong. What is it used for? Finding it difficult to break apart to prepare for packaging, workers tried to use dynamite. But on the other hand, given the right kind of kick, [it can] explode.". Ammonium nitrate is an industrial chemical commonly used around the world as an agricultural fertilizer, and in explosives for mining. "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.". Ammonium nitrate is commercially available and is often used in fertilizers and explosives. * Ammonium nitrate is an industrial chemical commonly used in fertilisers and as an explosive for quarrying and mining. Audience Relations, CBC P.O. Video footage appears to show a fire burning nearby before the blast. Ammonium nitrate’s major use is as a fertiliser – this accounts for around 78% of its use (by volume) worldwide. The other side has oxygen in it. Ammonium nitrate is predominantly … "We don't actually, strangely enough. But what about the Beirut case, where a massive amount of nitrogen dioxide was released into the atmosphere in one sudden explosion? Closed Captioning and Described Video is available for many CBC shows offered on CBC Gem. The explosion in Beirut shows us just how important these regulations are. For this reason it is widely used in … Images from Beirut reveal a distinct reddish colour to the plume of gases from the blast. This will almost certainly have contributed to the tragic circumstances that resulted in a commonplace industrial fire causing such a devastating explosion. Nitrogen oxides are commonly present in urban air pollution, and can irritate the respiratory system. In the case of Beirut, the fire that was evident ahead of the explosion acted as the fuel. 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. As an amateur astronomer, Nicole can be found looking up at the night sky appreciating the marvels of our universe. What is it used for? And what most people associate with that type of cloud tends to be nuclear explosions. Here in Australia, we produce and import large amounts of ammonium nitrate, mostly for use in mining. Toxic oxides of nitrogen are … It is a white crystalline solid and is highly soluble in water. Produced as small porous pellets, or “prills”, it’s one of the world’s most widely used fertilisers. That would make it unlikely that serious levels would remain at ground level, he said. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. An ammonium nitrate explosion produces massive amounts of nitrogen oxides. For combustion to occur, oxygen must be present. The subsequent explosion levelled the town and killed 700 people. Ammonium nitrate is an odorless, nearly colorless crystal salt. For decades, Australia has produced, stored and used ammonium nitrate without a major incident. 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… Elevated levels of these pollutants are particularly concerning for people with respiratory conditions. 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." Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula NH₄NO₃. She is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the author of several books. 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. It is made by combining ammonia gas with liquid nitric acid, which itself is made from ammonia. ', 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. Ammonium nitrate is a common industrial chemical used mainly for fertiliser because it is a good source of nitrogen for plants. Its chemical formula is NH 4 NO 3 or N 2 H 4 O 3. 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. It is a white crystalline solid and is highly soluble in water. 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. Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula NH4 NO3, and it's made by combining ammonia with nitric acid. © 2020 Scientific American, a Division of Springer Nature America, Inc. 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