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Showing posts from August, 2020

The Chemistry of the Beirut Tragedy

  The use of ammonium nitrate in explosives is nothing new. It is a potent oxidizing agent that accelerates the combustion of fuels, instantaneously liberating the energy within their bonds. This is how explosives work. The Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 is an example of its devastating potential. A rental vehicle filled with about   4,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer prills (1–2 mm soluble beads) treated with diesel fuel   (47:1) was detonated in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, destroying the adjacent building and damaging 325 others in a substantial radius of the blast. Ammonium nitrate is a readily-available fertilizer, as plants thrive on the nitrogen present in both the ammonium and the nitrate moieties of the compound. Malicious use has decreased with stiffened regulations and availability. The use of ammonium nitrate to accelerate the combustion of fuel is common in industrial applications such as mining. The mixture is referred to as  ANFO  for  ammonium