Uses Of Ammonia
The largest use of ammonia is in fertilizers, which are applied to the soil and help provide increased yields of crops such as corn, wheat, and soybeans. Liquid ammonia, ammonia/water solutions, and chemicals made from ammonia, such as ammonium salts and urea, are all used as sources of soluble nitrogen. Urea, which is made from ammonia and carbon dioxide, can also be used as a feed supplement for cattle, aiding in the rapid building of protein by the animals.
All other important nitrogen chemicals are now made from ammonia. Nitric acid results from oxidation of ammonia in the presence of a platinum catalyst, called the Ostwald process, followed by treatment of the resulting nitrogen oxides with water. Nitric acid and nitrates are needed for the manufacture of explosives like TNT, nitroglycerin, gunpowder, and also for the propellants in cartridges for rifles and machine guns.
Two types of polymers needed for artificial fibers require the use of ammonia, polyamides (nylon) and acrylics (orlon). The original polyamide named nylon, brought out by DuPont Chemical Co., was made from two components, adipic acid and hexamethylenediamine. The nitrogen in the second named component is derived from ammonia. Acrylics are made from a three-carbon nitrogen compound, acrylonitrile. Acrylonitrile comes from the reaction of propene, ammonia, and oxygen in the presence of a catalyst.
Because of its basic properties, ammonia is able to react with acidic gases such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides to form ammonium salts. Thus ammonia is useful in scrubbers that remove acidic gases before they can be released into the environment.
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