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:
- 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.
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 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