Shown here are four representations chemists use for ammonia. In the colored models, nitrogen is blue and hydrogen is white.
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Windows to the Universe original artwork by Randy Russell.
Ammonia - NH3
Ammonia is a chemical compound that is a colorless, flammable gas
at normal temperatures and pressures. Ammonia is toxic, corrosive to some materials,
and has a pungent odor. An ammonia molecule
(NH3) contains three hydrogen atoms
and one nitrogen atom.
Humans use ammonia in great quantities. We manufacture more atoms of ammonia
each year than any other industrial chemical. Ammonia is used extensively in
the production of chemical fertilizers. It is also used to make explosives,
nylon, and pharmaceuticals. Ammonia is also used as a cleaner, including in
household window glass-cleaning products. Ammonia is also used as a "feedstock"
when making nitric acid.
Ammonia is found in small quantities in Earth's
atmosphere. It is produced by the decay of animal and vegetable matter that
Nitrogen-fixing microbes convert nitrogen
in the air into ammonia in the soil as part of the Nitrogen
Cycle. This makes the nitrogen, a key ingredient in the chemistry of life,
available to plants and other organisms.
Ammonia sometimes also plays a role in removing acids
from Earth's atmosphere. Ammonia reacts with nitric acid and sulfuric
acid to form particulate
or aerosol nitrate and sulfate, removing the acids from the atmosphere within
a few days of the acids' creation.
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