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The safety and efficiency of this new explosive were … All rights reserved. The US cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency has also proposed a program to closely regulate the sale of transfer of ammonium nitrate. “Plastics, for example, paint, and other organic materials that completely or partially burned—all the building materials that became dust.”, The deadly history of ammonium nitrate, the explosive linked to the Beirut blast, Photograph by Anwar AMRO, AFP via Getty Images. If the ammonium nitrate in Beirut was stored in wooden or cardboard containers, it would have made the substance incredibly flammable, says Jimmie Oxley, a chemist at the University of Rhode Island. blast and producer gas furnaces produce wastewater streams contam-inated with cyanide mater1als. … Lebanon’s prime minister, Hassan Diab, said … Nitrogen is an essential element for this process and ammonium nitrate is particularly good, compared with other fertilizers, at delivering plants nutrients. Ammonium nitrate was involved in the 1947 Texas City disaster, one of the largest industrial explosions in history. Since 1916, the chemical has been responsible for at least 30 disasters, some accidental and some intentional. Though Lebanese authorities have said ammonium nitrate was the culprit in the blast, Lewis notes that in many cases commercial explosives are referred to as just this compound even though they contain additives. As Lebanon's investigation into the devastating blast in Beirut continues, officials have pointed to a possible cause: A massive shipment of agricultural … Though ammonium nitrate was first synthesized in 1659 by German chemist Johann Rudolf Glauber, it wasn’t used in explosives until World War I, when weapon makers mixed it with TNT (aka dynamite) to make cheaper bombs. The blast itself was heard up to 25 miles south of the city, and many streets in Beirut are now paved with broken glass. According to a report by Al Jazeera, Lebanon Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the explosion was fueled by a stockpile of over 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate, confiscated and stored for approximately six years at the port. When heated to above 170 degrees Fahrenheit, ammonium nitrate begins to undergo decomposition. It's these gases that are responsible for the red-brown plume of smoke seen in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion, Rae said. When something burns, it requires oxygen—that’s why fire extinguishers can easily put out flames by smothering them. Two years before … Moreover, the decomposition of ammonium nitrate can create byproducts known as nitrogen oxides, which are known to cause respiratory distress. View the product label for Aluminum Nitrate 60% Solution from Mineral Research and Development. Under normal conditions, the chemical is highly stable. According to Lebanon's Interior Minister, 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate went up in yesterday's blast. Ammonium nitrate, which is used in fertilizers and bomb making, is a salt made from ammonium and nitric acid, and it is highly explosive. Lebanese Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi, in comments to a local TV station, made no mention of ignited fireworks but said it appeared the blast was caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a warehouse at the dock ever since it was confiscated from a cargo ship in 2014. See active ingredients, product application, restrictions, and more. So what is ammonium nitrate, why is it explosive and why do we use it? Blast calculations suggest that at sea level, an explosion like Beirut’s would require about 1,000 tons of ammonium nitrate. Indian Regulation For Ammonium Nitrate . Keith Craig of the Stockton Community Action Group said it … An explosion at a warehouse in the Port of Beirut on Tuesday killed more than 100 people and left more than 4,000 people injured. It can explode after exposure to contaminants or fuel oil and then heated, which sets off a cascade of reactions. Cook's greatest commercial explosives invention was formulated in December of 1956, when he created a new blasting agent using an unusual mixture of ammonium nitrate, aluminum powder, and water. The shipment was eventually abandoned, and its cargo moved into the hangar where it remained, despite Lebanese custom officials requesting its disposal on at least six different occasions, according to The New York Times. The products of the reaction are harmless -- they're found in our atmosphere -- but the process releases huge amounts of energy. Reports suggest over 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated. Beirut mayor Marwan Abboud told Agence France-Presse that 300,000 people are unable to return to their homes, as the damage covered half the city and could cost up to $15 billion to repair. After the fireball erupts in the video above, you can immediately see the shock wave expanding away from the blast. On paper, ammonium nitrate is highly regulated in India. (Seventy-five years later, National Geographic revisits the elusive horror of Hiroshima.). A giant explosion occurs during the loading of fertilizer onto the freighter Grandcamp at a pier in Texas City, Texas, on April 16, 1947. The accidental detonation of ammonium nitrate has resulted in a number of accidents in the last century. In Australia, the storage and use of ammonium nitrate is monitored to prevent these types of explosions occurring, Kaiser said. The huge change in phase creates a shockwave.”. And just five years ago, an estimated 800 tons of ammonium nitrate fueled a warehouse explosion that leveled part of a port in the Chinese city of Tianjin, killing 173. Ammonium nitrate was also used in the 1995 Oklahoma City terror bombing that killed 168 people and the 2011 Oslo bombing that killed eight people. But the compound can contribute to explosions because it belongs to a chemical class known as oxidizers. By contrast, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 had a yield of at least 13,000 tons of TNT. Ammonium nitrate would only explode on its own if its temperature was rapidly raised to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In the aftermath of the blast, videos show plumes of red-brown smoke and the apocalyptic extent of the destruction, with buildings leveled for miles. A mixture of ammonium nitrate and acetic acid ignites when warmed, especially if concentrated [Von Schwartz p. 322 1918]. Plants rely on photosynthesis, converting sunlight to energy using chlorophyll. Annually, the world produces and stores enormous amounts of ammonium nitrate—more than 20 million tons in 2017. Ammonium Nitrate is used by the military around the world as an explosive as well as in terrorist activities like the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, killing 168 people. Some internet rumors speculate that because the ammonium nitrate was left to sit in a warehouse for several years, it would have degraded, becoming more volatile and increasingly dangerous over time. The Air Force in its routine missim ... Silver nitrate Aluminum Cadmium Chlorine Chloride ion Chl.Jrate ion Copper Cyanide ( ion} Cyanogen chloride Cyanate ( ion} Carbon dioxide Carbonate ion Chromium Iron Show full articles without "Continue Reading" button for {0} hours. Add enough of the oxidizer to a fire, and it will trigger an explosion. Though Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, estimates it’s probably closer to 400 tons. What leveled Beirut on Tuesday sounds eerily similar to descriptions of a massive 1947 explosion in Texas City, Texas. Lebanese Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi said it appeared that stocks of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be used in bombmaking, had exploded. 2021 National Geographic Partners, LLC. “There’s a massive amount of energy given off very quickly,” says Stephen Beaudoin, a chemical engineer also at Purdue University. It’s known to predispose people to the worst effects of respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. A more likely explanation is that the ammonium nitrate in Beirut was not alone inside the warehouse. "The idea in making any sort of explosive is to go from a high energy compound to a low energy one," explains Ian Rae, a professor at the University of Melbourne. The US Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives lists a number of statutes and regulations involved in the manufacturing, processing and storage of ammonium nitrate. But David Chavez, an explosives scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, doubts that scenario. The blast in St Mary Axe killed three people, including a 15-year-old girl. Fireworks and ammonium nitrate appear to have been the fuel that ignited a massive explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut, experts and videos of the blast … Any carbon-rich fuel—paper, cardboard, or even sugar—can pair with ammonium nitrate to produce more intense energy. When heated, ammonium nitrate decomposes non-explosively into gases of oxygen, nitrogen, and water vapor; however, it can be induced to decompose explosively by … “It’s relatively difficult to make pure ammonium nitrate go off unless you add things to it and cook it in a giant fire,” says Davin Piercey, a chemist at Purdue University. In 2015, explosions partly caused by the detonation of around 800 tons of ammonium nitrate rocked the Beijing port of Tianjin, killing 173 people. Aluminium nitrate is a strong oxidizing agent. Measurements of detonation velocity were performed. Injuries surpassed more than 5,000; the blast destroyed 500 homes and the smoke from it billowed for days. When combined with fuel and oil, ammonium nitrate creates a potent explosive widely used in the construction industry. Reconstructing exactly what went wrong in Beirut will be difficult, but Chavez says officials should look for evidence of improper storage, confinement, contamination, lack of ventilation, and potential sources of ignition. Ammonium nitrate, which Lebanese authorities have said was the cause of the Beirut blast, is an odourless crystalline substance commonly used as … The colossal explosion in Lebanon’s capital this week was apparently caused when more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated. But the chemical has a more nefarious use -- as an explosive. The stockpile had … He has also announced that Wednesday will be a national day of mourning in the country and the port and surrounding region has been declared a disaster zone. Ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse linked to catastrophic Beirut explosion Beirut was declared a "disaster city" by authorities on Wednesday, in the wake of a … Facilities holding high quantities of the chemical are subject to inspection by the Department of Homeland Security. Other health issues, akin to those seen after 9/11, may emerge given the widespread destruction to buildings and roads. Burning ammonium nitrate in an open field, for instance, isn't likely to result in an explosion, Rae said. e.g. An explosion rocked Beirut on August 4. The explosive potential of ammonium nitrate is well understood and has been used in numerous terrorist attacks including the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. Two explosions are said to have rocked the port. Such investigations may take time. Seventy-five years later, National Geographic revisits the elusive horror of Hiroshima. The Associated Press contributed to this article. Ammonium nitrate is an odourless crystalline substance that is naturally stable and used in fertilisers, but when mixed with other chemicals such as oil can create a potent explosive. "The energy given out is what you get as explosive power.". "This is clearly a very significant explosion, and the reported number of deaths is likely to be far higher than currently identified," said David Caldicott, a senior clinical lecturer in medicine at the Australian National University. “Ammonium nitrate does not degrade with time under normal storage conditions,” he says. Piling up large amounts of ammonium nitrate allows more heat to be contained for longer when a mixture burns. Moisture in the air is quickly condensed, forming a white sphere around the explosion zone. In April 1995, American terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols used two tons of the compound in a truck-bomb attack on the Oklahoma City federal building; 168 people were killed. The chemicals reportedly have been sitting by the docks since 2013. But with rapid heating or detonation, a chemical reaction can occur that converts ammonium nitrate to nitrogen and oxygen gas and water vapor. The chemical compound was used to make explosives for the … Ammonium nitrate is the fertilizer compound that can be used in explosives, said John Goodpaster, who researches explosives at Indiana at University-Purdue University Indianapolis. The blast filled Beirut’s air with particulate matter, one of the most common forms of air pollution. Lebanon blast: Ammonium nitrate behind many industrial accidents. The telltale signs of … the apocalyptic extent of the destruction. 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