Ammonium Nitrate: Properties And Applications

Ammonium nitrate (AN) is a commonly recognized mixture used in various industries. It is available in bulk and, generally is a harmless substance. However, when employed in certain situations, it becomes an ammonium nitrate explosive. In this form, it is employed in various industries to remove obstructions or clear a path. Like many chemical substances, it is potentially beneficial and harmful.

Description of Ammonium Nitrate

Ammonium nitrate is characterized as:

* Odorless
* Colorless
* Crystal salt
* Molecular weight of 80
* Relatively stable
* Less sensitive to various external stimuli e.g. shaking, pressure

The material can come in separate forms or grades including an ammonium nitrate solution and crystals. Both have their specific application.

Applications of Ammonium Nitrate

The most common use of ammonium nitrate is as a fertilizer. Companies may employ it on its own. It also is a major component of many types of fertilizers spread on fields to improve plant growth and crop yield. Farmers who plant hay crops and grow pasture often rely on ammonium nitrate to ensure faster and better growth.

However, besides being a viable and cost-effective fertilizer, ammonium nitrate is also a powerful explosive. As such, it finds application in various civil industrial projects. Mining, construction and even pyrotechnics rely on ammonium nitrate to provide them with the right kind of explosion. In fact, an ammonium nitrate explosive is common for mining particularly as an expulsion. Most experts regard expulsion explosives as generally superior to slurry-based explosions.

Yet, like PETN explosive, ammonium nitrate is not in and of itself sufficiently powerful. In order to be a truly effective tool in blasting, ammonium nitrate requires a fuel and a detonator. A bulk nitrogen explosive mixture consists of porous prilled ammonium nitrate (approximately 94%) and fuel oil (approximately 6%). To produce the right explosive device, the right amounts must be combined in the right ration and a detonator added. The detonator must also be the right type. It needs to generate sufficient energy to detonate the device. If any of these components are incorrect, a blast will not occur.

Reasons for Choosing Nitrate Ammonium Explosive

The characteristics and properties of ammonium nitrate make it a popular choice in many civil projects including mining and construction. Compared to many other forms of explosive material, nitrogen ammonium is much easier to handle and even store safely. This makes them easier to work with. The nature of nitrogen ammonium reduces the overall risk of accidental blasts occurring on site. As a result, unless extreme pressure or heat affects the ammonium nitrate explosive, it can sit safely in sealed bags until the time comes to employ it under controlled circumstances.

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