Is Ammonia Flammable? (Can it Catch Fire)

Ammonia is a chemical substance recognized for a particular smell when you are around it, even though you didn’t see it at first.

It is so colorless that you can hardly tell if it’s in use close by without its scent — a lot of industries, whether large or small scale, use ammonia for their products. But is ammonia flammable?

Ammonia is flammable, but it can only catch fire when released into the air at about 15 to 28% by volume.

However, it is still risky enough to cause a fire hazard in huge quantities since it is saved under extreme pressure and canisters of ammonia, which are hot to the extent that they could flame up. Back to that later.

What Is Ammonia?

Ammonia is among the most widely manufactured industrial chemicals within the U.S. It is significantly utilized in industries and factories and used naturally in humans and the environment.

In addition, ammonia is essential for several biological syntheses and functions as a precursor for amino acid and nucleotide synthesis.

Ammonia (NH3) is a member of the nitrogen cycle and exists in the soil courtesy of bacterial processes. It is also present naturally through the decomposition of organic matter like plants, animals, and animal dungs.

Some of the common chemical and physical features of ammonia include:

  • Ammonia is colorless under an average room temperature, and a highly irritating gas with a pungent, suffocating odor
  • You can refer to it as anhydrous ammonia, and it is hygroscopic in its pure nature. In other words, it readily retains moisture
  • Ammonia has alkaline properties and is corrosive
  • Ammonia gas dissolves easily in water to produce ammonium hydroxide, an acidic solution with a weak base
  • Ammonia gas is easily compressed and produces a pure liquid under pressure
  • Ammonia is often transported as a compressed liquid in steel containers
  • Ammonia is not highly flammable, however, ammonia containers may combust if it is exposed to high heat

Is Ammonia Flammable?

Ammonia cannot be considered flammable at ordinary concentrations in the air. But, if it mixes up in an air containing about 15 to 28% ammonia by volume, it would be seen as flammable.

At this rate, it would be a fire hazard in terms of explosion; hence, it is best to be careful whenever you use ammonia for anything in tight spaces.

In other words, from management hindsight, ammonia is often regarded as a flammable chemical. As a result of this reason and other hazardous and corrosive properties, its use is highly regulated in the U.S and several other countries.

Generally, ammonia’s boiling point stands at about 28 degrees Fahrenheit (33.3 degrees Celsius), which is a sign that it is flammable. If it undergoes pressure, cold, or solution, it will quickly disperse into thin air and be prone to fire hazards. 

How Is Ammonia Used?

Ammonia is majorly used as fertilizers for extensive agriculture, and about 88% of every ammonia in the U.S. is utilized for agricultural purposes. In addition, over 100 million tons of ammonia are used in the farming sector all over the world every year.

You can also use it to produce several nitrogen-containing compounds ranging from hydrogen cyanide to amino acids. It also serves as a household cleaning tool because of its ability to ultimately cause a shine on steel, glass, ceramics, etc. 

Ammonia is also helpful in the food industry as a fermentation material, antimicrobial agent, and refrigeration. In addition, there are a few cases in which ammonia is used as fuel.

However, it only provides about one-third of the energy produced by the equivalent diesel volume in such cases.

Can Ammonia Catch Fire?

Under normal conditions, you can hardly ignite ammonia. However, with the ideal concentration, it will catch fire because if there is any leakage in ammonia, it will cause a change in its concentration, thus making it highly flammable.

What Will Happen When You Burn Ammonia?

Ammonia is a pure combusting fuel, and in as much as it tends to release energy in the form of heat, its end products are usually gas and water. Meanwhile, nitrogen constitutes about 78% of the atmosphere and what you are breathing in at the moment.

On the other hand, it constitutes about 80% or over of our bodies, showing that these byproducts are not toxic. However, there are situations in which you burn ammonia, which causes nitrogen also to oxidize – this gives us a result called NO2, otherwise known as nitrous oxide.

Popularly known as laughing gas, nitrous oxide serves as an anesthetic or a recreational drug (if used in little quantity).

The only risk involved is if you were to remove every oxygen in the air somehow, and then a suffocating hazard happens to fill the air. However, this is impossible in most cases.

Does Ammonia Burn Clean?

Yes, ammonia cleanly burns. However, this activity is not friendly to the eco-world because ammonia production, in the first place, produces greenhouse gases.

This will subsequently change, and the creation of ammonia will start to become 100% clean globally in the 2050 year.

Is Ammonia A Fire Hazard?

Even though, under normal circumstances, ammonia is non-flammable, it is still a fire hazard. As much as it has leakages, it is prone to produce the ideal mix that will make it explosive.

Is Ammonia Explosive?

Ammonia is explosive as long as it is present in the correct quantity, which will make it volatile. Again, suppose you store ammonia in canisters exposed to heat.

In that case, it could cause the canisters to expand and fracture, thus resulting in an explosion, and with time, the ammonia will be emitted from the canisters, causing them to combust and explode again.

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