Why Does Fertilizer (Sometimes) Explode? [Video]

Why Does Fertilizer (Sometimes) Explode? [Video]

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Over the last century, the substance ammonium nitrate has actually been associated with a minimum of 30 catastrophes and terrorist attacks. Under regular situations, it’s absolutely safe and utilized crazes like fertilizer, so what makes ammonium nitrate turn lethal?:

Video Transcript:

In April 1995, a truck bomb ripped apart a structure in downtown Oklahoma City. In August 2015, a series of surges shook the port of Tianjin and northern China. And in August 2020, a storage facility fire triggered a blast in Beirut so effective that surrounding nations might feel it.

These were all brought on by the substance ammonium nitrate, which over the last century has actually been associated with a minimum of 30 catastrophes and terrorist attacks.

But what is ammonium nitrate?

Well, it’s utilized in all examples from making prescription antibiotics to instantaneous ice bags. And it’s a crucial component in fertilizer.

You might be questioning, Why are we utilizing something that has the possible to be so lethal to grow food?

I like to think about ammonium nitrate as a Jekyll and Hyde chemical.

When it’s saved correctly, it’s the moderate mannered Dr. Jekyll. Plants enjoy it since it provides them with nitrogen which they require to grow. And although our environment is primarily nitrogen, plants can’t really utilize it because kind, however they can utilize it in the kind of nitrate.

Under the incorrect conditions, ammonium nitrate can become Dr. Jekyll’s wicked change ego, Mr. Hyde.

– [MAN] Window
– [BOY] Are you severe?
– [MAN] Yeah. (surge)

So what makes this generally safe substance turn lethal?

First, you require a great deal of it. There’s this thing called crucial size, which is basically the quantity of a substance you would require for it to detonate.

Ammonium nitrate is crucial size is substantial, about 100 times larger than TNTs.

It’s rather inert by itself. But in some cases if there’s a fire rather near the ammonium nitrate, and ammonium nitrate remains in a substantial stack, ammonium nitrate can capture on fire.

Once ammonium nitrate reaches 210 degrees Celsius, it begins to melt, rapidly producing a lot of gases, primarily laughing gas, water vapor and nitrogen gas.

If those gases can’t leave, temperature levels increase and the response gets quicker and faster.

Now this by itself might result in a surge. In the case of Beirut, 6 million pounds of ammonium nitrate had actually been incorrectly saved in a storage facility, relaxing and taking in wetness for almost 7 years.

And especially though nitrate has actually been a bit damp, it ends up being really hard like cement, it’s not fluffy powder any longer.

So include a fire, which solidified ammonium nitrate begins to warm up and melt.

And then the pressure begins to increase where the gases can’t leave.

The burn rate or the speed at which ammonium nitrate is burning starts to get.

When the burn rate is slower than the speed of noise, that’s deflagration, however when it ends up being faster than the speed of noise, that triggers a shockwave through the ammonium nitrate which detonates it.

But ammonium nitrate doesn’t require to be in a compressed kind to develop a catastrophe.

At the port of Tianjin, 1.7 million pounds of ammonium nitrate was being saved in a storage facility near a location where nitrocellulose was likewise being saved.

Unlike ammonium nitrate, nitrocellulose is extremely combustible.

The nitrocellulose ignited, infecting the saved ammonium nitrate, triggering it to detonate.

Tianjin and Beirut were a few of the most dangerous unexpected ammonium nitrate catastrophes over the last century.

But terrorists have actually likewise weaponized the chemical. Like in the 1995 Oklahoma City battle, where terrorists detonated a truck packed with 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, killing 168 individuals.

When I see a big surge on the news, my very first impulse is to ask, “Was that an accident? Or was it planned?”

If it’s a terrorist attack, you wouldn’t have a fire, it will take place really rapidly. You wouldn’t have time for individuals to video it, it’ll be done within minutes. Because what they’re doing, they have the dynamite, they will detonate it, trigger a blast do the utmost damage they can which’s it.

Because of its occurrence and terrorist attacks, Some nations have actually banned ammonium nitrate. In one circumstances in 2011, the United States Army detonated about 2,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that it gathered in Afghanistan.

It was done really far from houses or individuals so the resulting shockwave wouldn’t trigger damage or injury.

Sometimes the shockwave is more lethal than the surge itself.

A shockwave is compressing the air going through the environment, and at the idea of the shockwave, the temperature levels are 3 to 4,000 degrees centigrade and the speed of the shockwave is supersonic.

So as a shock wave going through the environment as it strikes windows obviously it shatters them since it presses them out.

As it strikes individuals, it’ll break our bones since they’re fragile, however the rest of it will go through however it’ll burn us since it’s really hot.

It’ll turn over vehicles, it will turn over ships. It’ll break anything fragile. It will shatter anything fragile as it goes through the environment.

So if you discover yourself in a location where you see a huge fire burning, get as far from it as possible and far from any windows since you don’t understand what’s burning.

So if it detonates, the shockwave that follows might be ravaging.

Yes, all of this is frightening. But Dr. Akhavan made it clear that we need to not be gone nuts about ammonium nitrate.

Because individuals stress now, so they shouldn’t be fretted about ammonium nitrate. It is safe to utilize. It’s absolutely nothing more. It’s not classified as a dynamite. So really hardly ever does it increase.

It’s just when it’s old, and there’s a fire next door and likewise saved in substantial amounts. Otherwise, it’s great.

So having a bag of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in your garage is not trigger for issue. So keep utilizing it, your tomatoes will most likely thank you.

Happy gardening.