What ammonium nitrate is?: A granulate with great and darker past

"of Combustible saltpeter" – this is a very German name for the substance that allegedly has led to the devastating Explosion in the port of Beirut. Ammonium

What ammonium nitrate is?: A granulate with great and darker past

"of Combustible saltpeter" – this is a very German name for the substance that allegedly has led to the devastating Explosion in the port of Beirut. Ammonium nitrate can mean life and death. Because the chemical that is traded for a year and a day as a colorless and cheap granules in the mega-ton scale, is the basic material for both fertilizer as explosives. How closely both are chemically linked seen each other, we know here only too well: That of the later Nobel prize for Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch-makers more than a hundred years, developed procedures for the synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen, supplied to some extent the chemical downfield for the establishment of the global fertilizer and also a new explosives industry. Because the ammonia Gas, under certain conditions, if it is in the tank with nitric acid is blown by the dry neutralization of the acid with the ammonium nitrate. This is traded to crystals are dried and Packed in sacks, as a solid granule.

Joachim Müller-Jung

editor in the features section, responsible for the area of "nature and science".

F. A. Z. Twitter

The powder you can see the latent danger of explosion, the lives of the mixture is held. The rules and regulations, but, at least in Germany and other countries: ammonium nitrate under the explosives act and may only be used with adequate safety measures or by the addition of other substances, such as lime in "Blue corn" – fertilizer-storage. What is the ammonium nitrate as explosive power, its will, under certain physical or chemical conditions of almost unprecedented responsiveness: The Transition from the solid granules in its gaseous products (water, nitrogen, and oxygen) happens so quickly and with such violence, as we know it is only for a few other explosives. A Kilo of ammonium nitrate expands in a flash to a gas volume of nearly a thousand liters. A tremendous pressure wave is triggered.

In Beirut, about 2750 tons, that is to say to be nitrate, with more than two and a half million kilograms of ammonium, have been stored. If, however, the entire Material is actually exploding, and don't know it yet – as well as the all-important question as to the actual trigger of the massive ammonium Explosion of nitrate. Seconds before the main explosion should, according to eye witness small explosions reports have gone ahead, could have laid the decisive spark.

Updated Date: 06 August 2020, 04:20

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