What is ammonia made out of?

Ammonia is a common and essential chemical compound made up of nitrogen and hydrogen, also known as NH3.  Found in a multitude of places naturally, this is a chemical that is necessary for many organisms involved in the nitrogen cycle and the body’s waste production process. Organisms produce ammonia and amino acids when the body breaks down proteins during digestion, this is partially done by some digestive bacteria. Ammonia is essential for the synthesis of DNA and proteins especially. Overall, the body produces, on average, about 17 grams or .5 ounces of ammonia, which is then either absorbed into the circulation system (about 4 grams) or excreted through urine made by the liver.

It is important to note that naturally occurring ammonia is not the same as manufactured ammonia which is highly concentrated. Concentrated ammonia is caustic, so much so that it’s listed as an extremely hazardous material by the NFPA.

Where can I find naturally occurring ammonia?

There are all kinds of different naturally occurring ammonia compounds that can be found in the environment. The substances that contain ammonia or are similar are called ammoniacal, a few for example are:

  • Ammonium salts found in rainwater, fertile soil, and seawater in minute amounts.
  • Ammonium chloride and ammonium sulfate found in volcanic areas.
  • Ammonium bicarbonate found in Ronak guano.
  • Ammonia can also be found on several planets in space and throughout the solar system.

How do you make concentrated ammonia?

The Haber-Bosch process is used to manufacture concentrated ammonia. This process fixes nitrogen with hydrogen by using an extremely high pressure to force a chemical reaction. Nitrogen molecules have a very strong triple bonds that must be essentially forced to accept hydrogen to make concentrated ammonia fast rather than the slow natural process of nitrogen fixation. This is done by using an iron or ruthenium catalyst that can withstand 800° F and a pressure of 200 atmospheres. By taking nitrogen from the air and combining it with hydrogen in the form of natural gas, these elements are then placed into industrial reactors where they can be converted into fluid ammonia.


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