Molecule of the Day

Yesterday, I discussed ammonium nitrate, an industrial fertilizer. One problem with it is its lavish reactivity. On its own, and particularly in combination with hydrocarbons, it makes a potent explosive – it was used in the attack on Oklahoma City in the 1990’s.


Apparently, adding a different counterion makes a world of difference. This week, Honeywell reported a new fertilizer, Sulf-N26, which is just a mix of ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate. Apparently, it doesn’t support the explosive combustion of fuel oil like pure ammonium nitrate does.


  1. #1 Uncle Al
    September 24, 2008

    Oppau, Germany 21 September 1921. 4500 tonnes of ammonium sulfate-ammonium nitrate double salt fetilizer went whoopsie. Nothing extraordinary happened during 20,000 prior firings. You can’t condemn a huge and successful program for a single failure.

  2. #2 Gruson
    September 24, 2008

    A mixture of ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate has a higher VoD than ammonium nitrate on it’s own. How’s that for safety.

  3. #3 Lab Lemming
    September 28, 2008

    Don’t plants like most of their N as nitrate anyway?

  4. #4 mike
    October 3, 2008

    ah ammonium sulfate, also very useful for isolating proteins, different proteins crash out of solution at different concentrations of ammonium sulfate. it’s rather crude but it gets the job done

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