Ammonium Nitrate- Stoichiometry

Written for PULSE by Christopher Martin
Edited By: Stephanie Nardei

Time: 30 minutes

20 minutes to print articles for students and load PowerPoint

Materials: PPT on Global Warming

During this exercise, students will learn that ammonium nitrate is used as a fertilizer and an explosive. They will study the chemistry of ammonium nitrate and consider the advantages and disadvantages of this compound. The dual nature of Ammonium Nitrate was illustrated by the Grandcamp disaster in 1947.

Students will be able to:

  1. Quantify the relationship between moles and mass.

National Science Education Standard

Chemical reactions may release or consume energy. Some reactions such as the burning of fossil fuels release large amounts of energy by losing heat and by emitting light.

Teacher Background
On April 16th 1947, a French freighter named the SS Grandcamp attempted to dock in Texas City, Texas on the Galveston Bay. The ship was making a delivery of ammonium nitrate fertilizer when the deck of the ship caught fire. Oblivious to the dangers of ammonium nitrate, the crew continued to dock. Later that morning, the freighter exploded creating a tidal wave that enveloped the shore and an explosion at kiloton scale. Many refineries that were located on the waterfront also caught on fire and continued to burn for 6 days after the explosion. It was estimated that a total of 567 people were killed, but it is believed that this number underestimates the total amount of casualties from this incident.

Related and Resource Websites
Ammonium Nitrate
Ammonium Nitrate on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammonium_nitrate
Ammonium Nitrate on MSDS: http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/englishhtml/a6048.htm
Ammonium Nitrate on Answers.com http://www.answers.com/topic/ammonium-nitrate
Ammonium Nitrate as a Fertilizer http://agnews.tamu.edu/dailynews/stories/SOIL/Apr2506a.htm



Students should write a balanced equation for the reaction between ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (C8H18). The basic chemistry of ANFO detonation is the reaction of ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) with a long chain hydrocarbon (CnH2n+2) to form gasses of nitrogen, water, and carbon dioxide. Nitrogen is a diatomic molecule. Draw a lewis dot diagram of N2 to show what this means.

If 11.4g of fuel oil react, what mass ammonium nitrate will explode?

What volume of Carbon dioxide will be liberated?

Embedded Assessment
The power point on global warming and the presentation to the class will provide opportunities for assessment of the students’ understanding of the risks involved with energy production.




PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: March 7, 2007
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