Ammonia (NH3) is a pungent gas that occurs naturally in the environment and is composed of nitrogen and hydrogen atoms. It is part of the nitrogen cycle and also produced in the soil by bacteria during bacterial processes. The human body makes ammonia when the body breaks down food containing protein. However, industrially produced ammonia has different uses.
Uses of Ammonia
Some of the uses of ammonia gas or ammonia solution (Ammonium hydroxide) are discussed below.
1. Making fertilizers
This is the main industrial use of ammonia. Ammonia is rich in nitrogen, hydrogen, and other elements, and therefore, it can be used in making fertilizer to sustain crop production. For example, ammonium nitrate and urea fertilizers are some of the fertilizers made from ammonia compounds. Similarly, ammonia is used to make solution fertilizers that are sprayed on crops.
Additionally, ammonia may act as an antifungal agent to some crops and fruits, and this helps in preventing the growth of fungi.
Some industries depend largely on ammonia. It is either used as raw material, a source of nitrogen or hydrogen, stabilizer, or neutralizer. A good example is a fertilizer making company that will use ammonia as the main raw material. Therefore, ammonia plays a vital role in promoting the growth of industries.
3. Household products
Ammonia is known for its cleaning property, and therefore, it is used in industries as an ingredient in making household cleaning products like soaps. Also, an ammonium hydroxide solution can be used as a cleaning agent to remove stains and to break down household grim.
Ammonia also can be used in making antimicrobial agents and antiseptic household products.
In textile industries, liquid ammonia is used for the treatment of cotton and silk and in the manufacture of synthetic fibers like nylon. Ammonia is used in dyeing cotton, wool, and silk in the textile industries and giving them the desired color. Ammonia also is used as a catalyst in the production of some synthetic resins.
5. Rubber industry
During the transportation of rubber from the plantation to the industry, ammonia is used. Ammonia has a neutralizing property that helps to prevent the coagulation of raw latex during transportation.
6. Food additives
Ammonia is used in the process of producing and manufacturing soda ash. In the Solvay process (the process of producing salt), ammonia is used as one of the raw materials. For example, ammonium chloride and ammonia salts are some of the products of the ammonia compound.
Ammonia plays an important role in welding and alloying metals. Ammonia is associated with nitriding of alloys of metals and carbo-nitriding operations that are done to harden the surfaces of alloy sheets. Ammonia also is used to produce hydrogen that is used in the welding of metals.
8. as refrigerant
Anhydrous ammonia has a vaporization property such that it can absorb heats from its surrounding. This property makes it a good coolant in refrigeration. Apart from being a cheaper coolant, it also has disadvantages; toxicity and requires corrosion-resistant components.
Also, this property of anhydrous ammonia can be used in air-conditioning equipment.
9. Treating dangerous gases
Ammonia is used for remediation of gaseous emissions that would be harmful to living things. Ammonia is used in industries that emit SO2 gas to scrub it and helps to prevent the harmfulness caused by it to a human being. Ammonia converts SO2 to ammonium sulfate that is used in the manufacture of fertilizers. Similarly, ammonia neutralizes nitrogen oxide emitted by diesel engines.
10. Used as fuel
Ammonia can be used to power ammonia engines and ammonia motors that usually use ammonia as a working fluid. Similarly, ammonia can be converted to hydrogen through a process known as the sodium amide process. The converted ammonia can be used to power hydrogen fuel cells or can be used for combustion.
11. as stimulant
Smelling the pungent smell of ammonia may be beneficial to the respiratory system as it acts as a respiratory stimulant. Ammonia is used as a raw material during the process of making methamphetamine, a drug that is used for stimulating purposes. Also, ammonia is used in making aromatic ammonia spirit used for medical purposes to prevent or treat fainting.
12. Extraction of petroleum
As an alkali, ammonia is used in the petroleum industry to neutralize and counterbalance the constituents of the acid of oil which are present in the crude oil. It is also used to keep containers free from corrosion.
13. Ammonia fuming
This is another use of ammonia when it comes to woodworks. It is used to darken the wood that can be used for art or furniture. The ammonia fumes react with the tannins present in the wood resulting in the darkening of the wood. Where ammonia solution is readily available, it would be cheaper and an easier way of darkening the wood rather than using the paints.
14. Fermentation process
Ammonia solution can be used as a fermenting agent. It introduces nitrogen for micro-organisms that is responsible for the process of fermenting. Also, an ammonia solution helps to adjust pH hence easing the fermentation process.
15. Purification of water
Ammonium hydroxide can be used to treat water. Adding an alkaline ammonium solution to impure water, it helps in killing germs present in the water and therefore making water safe to drink.
16. as a cleaner
Ammonia solution is used for general cleaning purposes. A stain-free object or a thing can be achieved by washing it or soaking it in water that contains an ammonia solution. This solution also can be used in de-greasing objects due to the grease-cutting property of an ammonia solution.
It is also used in cleaning the following; electric oven, carpets, concrete stains, windows, and glasses, among other objects.
17. Used as a lifting gas
Ammonia gas can be used in place of helium or hydrogen as a lifting gas. This is possible because ammonia gas is less dense than the atmosphere at standard temperature and pressure (STP) and, therefore, can be filled in weather balloons.
18. as a preservative agent
Ammonia solution can be used to preserve dead things and also foods. The dead creature is stored in the ammonia solution, and this ensures it does not go bad or decay easily.
The beef industry uses anhydrous ammonia to reduce or eliminate microbial contamination of beef.