Ammonia is made by something called the Haber process which combines nitrogen from the air with hydrogen derived mainly from a natural gas such as methane. This process was discovered by the German chemists Karl Bosch and Fritz Haber just before World War I.
In nature, ammonia comes from decaying organic matter and the excrement of humans, livestock, and particularly aquatic animals. Prior to World War I, most ammonia was obtained by a process using this organic matter. Small amounts of ammonia also exists in soil, but too much of it can harm vegetation.
Ammonia is a corrosive colorless gas with a very characteristic strong smell. Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia causes immediate burning to the nose, throat, eyes, and respiratory tract and can result in blindness, lung damage or even death. Inhalation of lower concentrations can cause nose and throat irritation.
- Boxers (and other athletes) that have been dazed or knocked unconscious will sniff ammonia “smelling salts” to restore consciousness and mental alertness.
- Ammonia’s chemical compound name is NH3.
- In its pure form, ammonia is known as anhydrous ammonia.
- About 80% of the ammonia produced is used in agriculture as fertilizer.
- Ammonia gas is lighter than air and will rise.