Ammonia is about as simple as molecules get. Ammonia, like methane, water and carbon dioxide, consists of only 2 different elements. Yet, this otherwise unassuming molecule helped give rise to life on Earth and has many important industrial uses. For a brief overview, read more below.
Ammonia-the “Primordial Soup”
Life on Earth is believed to have arisen in a “primordial soup”, a mixture of methane , ammonia and water. Methane and ammonia together have three of the essential elements of organic matter, carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen. It is thought that when these reacted with oxygen using lightning as the energy source, the building blocks of life, amino acids and nucleic acids were formed. (1)
Ammonia in Common Uses
Nearly 200 million tons of ammonia are produced industrially around the world every year. It finds its way into an extraordinary list of products. It is a precursor for nitrogen based fertilizers and explosives. It can be used in household cleaners particularly for glass and is an effective sanitizer. It is also an effective refrigerant used in industrial freezing and hockey rinks. It even has notable Its very low molecular weight and reactivity make it useful as a leak detector in many industries. It has advantages over compressed hydrogen as an automotive fuel. (2)
Of course, not everything about ammonia is a benefit. The infographic below lists some of the potential hazards caused by a variety of chemical reactions ammonia is involved in.
Ammonia produces a great many other chemicals important in day to day applications. Many thanks for Andy Brunning of compoundchem.com for the use of this image.
Ammonia The Molecule
Last but not least, here is a picture of ammonia. The central blue atom is nitrogen and the 3 white atoms are hydrogen. Use our 3D molecular model builder to build your own model of ammonia (or almost any other compound) for display or teaching.
(Note: the video below refers to our original domain, indigo.com. Please ignore, we now use indigoinstruments.com)