The force of the ammonium nitrate explosion is provided by the rapid generation of gas as it breaks down. However, if it is contaminated with impurities, the risk of it detonating increases. The primary reaction when it breaks down produces nitrogen, water vapour and oxygen. It is commonly used in agriculture as a high-nitrogen fertilizer, and it has also been used as an oxidizing agent in explosives, including improvised explosive devices. Fertilizer manufacturers began adding calcium carbonate to pure ammonium nitrate in the 1970s to make it less explosive. Most calcium ammonium nitrate is used as a fertilizer. Below infographic summarizes the difference between calcium ammonium nitrate and ammonium nitrate. The blame for the explosion has been directed at 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate that was being stored in a warehouse in Beirut’s port. It’s also used in some explosive mixtures which are used for mining and quarrying. Calcium ammonium nitrate is hygroscopic.  CAN is preferred for use on acid soils, as it acidifies soil less than many common nitrogen fertilizers. Calcium ammonium nitrate is used in some instant cold packs as an alternative to ammonium nitrate. Ammonium nitrate provides both, intimately associated in each molecule. Furthermore, calcium ammonium nitrate is important as a fertilizer, useful in instant cold packs while ammonium nitrate is useful as a fertilizer, as a major component in explosives. Specifically, in the past calcium nitrate has been considered as a less potent minor substitute for a portion of the ammonium nitrate in certain inorganic oxidizing salt based compositions. Heating also poses a danger: ammonium nitrate decomposes at around 230˚C, and can explode when heated to between 260–300˚C if it’s confined. In its pure form, ammonium nitrate isn’t usually explosive – in fact, it’s safe to handle.  It is also used in place of ammonium nitrate where ammonium nitrate is banned.. The main chemical in single use hot packs is either calcium chloride or magnesium sulfate; the other ingredient is distilled water. Calcium Nitrate explosives? The graphic in this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. You might have wonder what caused the plume of smoke seen after the explosion in Beirut to have an orange-red colour. Calcium ammonium nitrate has seen use in improvised explosives. However, if it is contaminated with impurities, the risk of it detonating increases. This graphic takes a look. The method as defined in claim 1 wherein sufficient ammonium nitrate, slaked or unslaked lime, liquid water miscible organic fuel, and additional water, if necessary, are mixed and reacted to form an explosive composition comprising from about 5 to about 25 percent by weight calcium nitrate; from about 10 to about 25 percent liquid water miscible organic fuel; from about 3 to about 8 percent water; … This is due to other reactions generating nitrogen dioxide. Ammonium nitrate, which is used in fertilizers and bomb making, is a salt made from ammonium and nitric acid, and it is highly explosive. Beirut explosion: What is ammonium nitrate and how dangerous is it? Calcium ammonium nitrate is used in some instant cold packs as an alternative to ammonium nitrate. Fertilizer grade CAN contains roughly 8% calcium and 21-27% nitrogen. SSAN is also classed as a security sensitive explosive under Reference B. In these explosive mixtures, it acts as an oxidising agent, helping other materials burn. The chemical compound ammonium nitrate, the nitrate of ammonia with the chemical formula NH4NO3, is a white crystalline solid at room temperature and standard pressure. Calcium ammonium nitrate has seen use in improvised explosives. Could calcium nitrate be used in the same way that ammonium nitrate is used in anfo? The exception is ammonium nitrate, which is not only toxic; it's potentially explosive. If a pack breaks open and the ammonium nitrate comes into contact with combustible materials it may explode. Its dissolution in water is endothermic, leading to its use in some instant cold packs. Kauffman said, in principle, ammonium nitrate should be highly explosive by itself, but it is not. I am hoping to test a charge of 3kg consisting of: 5% aluminium powder (400 mesh), 6% kerosene, and 89% calcium nitrate. Potassium chlorate — the stuff that makes matches catch fire — has surpassed fertilizer as the explosive of choice for insurgents. Calcium ammonium nitrate or CAN, also known as nitro-limestone or nitrochalk, is a widely used inorganic fertilizer, accounting for 4% of all nitrogen fertilizer used worldwide in 2007. Albeit with a large booster charge. However, this highly valued and legally produced agricultural fertilizer is easily reprocessed by insurgents and used as the main charge, or explosive element, in IEDs. It improves the soil and granulates the soil making it anti-caking.  Production of calcium ammonium nitrate consumed 3% of world ammonia production in 2003.. If you’re looking to help the huge numbers of people affected by the explosion in Beirut, the Lebanese Red Cross is accepting donations, and Impact Lebanon are raising disaster relief funds. The energy of the detonation wave causes the ammonium nitrate in the fertilizer to vaporize – the solid fertilizer becomes a gas in an instant. Unlike ammonium nitrate, these calcium containing formulations are not classified as oxidizers by the United States Department of Transportation. In its pure form, ammonium nitrate isn’t usually explosive – in fact, it’s safe to handle. Today’s news has been dominated by the terrible explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. AMMONIUM NITRATE Page 3 of 6 In addition, the following may be useful or required: Ammonium NitrateBefore entering a confined space where Ammonium Nitrate abnormal resistance to breathing is experienced, or (3) eye may be present, check to make sure that an explosive concentration does not exist.
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