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How is Ammonia Used in the World Today?

Updated on November 27, 2014

In the article reporting the NY Times findings about deceptive labeling practices in the food industry and the ammonia infused in our beef, the subject of the chemical of ammonia which many of know as household ammonia came up. Ammonia has a number of other uses and is used in various industries including most recently the controversial food processing.

The food processing companies have detailed the use of ammonia is not an ingredient and therefore this makes the use a processing step not an ingredient. What perhaps helped in this argument is ammonia is was originally all natural. For you see, man has learned how to create a synthetic version of this natural chemical.

The man-made version or synthetic ammonia was created under a practice call the Harber-Bosch Process created during World War I - described in more detail below.

The use of ammonia is critical to our every day lives. And while it may be used in low grade hamburger that we serve our children in school lunch programs, it is also used in many technology products that we love and quite frankly could not live without today. Learn what these products are and what industries ammonia is a vital component element.

Ammonia Cell NH3

photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

What Are Some Household Uses of Ammonia

In this article entitled What Are Some Household Uses of Ammonia?, the Wisegeek explores the household uses of ammonia.

Ammonia Usage Across Different Industries

Food Industry for processing

Technology for the semi conductor industry producing flat screen panels

Explosive nitrogen is created from ammonia

Polymers acrylic and nylon use ammonia

Farming/Fertilizing for added soil nutrients

How is Ammonia Utilized? Beef and Beyond

Ammonia is utilized extensively throughout a different of different industries and in a number of different manners. Additionally, as we stated above there is a synthetic ammonia - a man-made version. Amazing how man is able to copy nature!

How is Ammonia Utilized In Different Industries

Ammonia is a major component of fertilizers, called the first step to fertilizer by Professor Channing Robertson of Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA.

Ammonia Infused Beef for Fighting Bacteria

New technology has provided the ability to fight bacteria, specifically harmful bacteria such as E. coli that is sometimes deadly to humans. This bacteria is a real safety concern and has been the subject of numerous recalls of meat products across the United States.

Semi-conductor Industry

Semi conductor Industry is the cumulative of many electronic devices that utilize computer chips - and may include LEDs, Flat Panel Monitors, cell phones, etc... The giant in the semi-conductor industry is Intel (USA). Other names you are familiar with are Toshiba (Japan), Samsung (South Korea) and Qualcomm (USA).


The largest use of ammonia is in fertilizers. The application helps provide increased yields for corn, wheat, and soybeans.


Urea, which Professor Channing details the chemical structure in the video is made from ammonia and carbon dioxide. Urea is a common feed supplement for cattle.


Nitrogen chemicals are made from ammonia. Nitric acid explosives like TNT, nitroglycerin, gunpowder, along with propellants in cartridges for rifles and machine guns.


Ammonia is needed for artificial fibers and polymers such as nylon and orlon (acrylics).

Ammonia is First Step to Fertilizer

Ammonia is the first step to fertilizer says Professor Channing Robertson. Watch the video at the right for a complete explanation. Starting around minute 13 and moving forward.

Ammonia Discussed at Minute 13 in This Video from Stanford University

Synthesis of Ammonia - Harber-Bosch Process & World War I

Creating chemicals from man-made methods is called Synthesis..... The creation of natural forming ammonia was needed for Germany during the time of World War I. How this chemical creation helped the wartime efforts is detailed eloquentyly by Professor Shakhashiri.

Professor Shakhashiri, Department of Chemistry details in this paper about the Harber-Bosch process of manufacturing ammonia:

"Although now modified and improved, the Haber-Bosch process continues to be the most common method for making ammonia. The nitrogen is obtained from liquefied air, and the hydrogen is usually from natural gas decomposed by heating.

The Haber-Bosch process is also an example of the complex impact of chemistry upon life. At the start of World War I, Germany was dependent upon the natural nitrate deposits of Chile for the nitrogen compounds required to manufacture explosives. The Allied blockade of South American ports soon cut off this supply. Had it not been for the alternative source of nitrogen compounds provided by the direct synthesis of ammonia, Germany most likely would have been forced to surrender several years before 1918. By prolonging the war, the Haber-Bosch process indirectly cost thousands of lives. However, over the years, the fertilizer produced by the same process has increased crop yields around the globe and spared millions from starvation." Revised: 1 Feb 2008


Check Your Knowledge of Ammonia Usage

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Summary - In Support of New Technologies

The uses of ammonia for fighting bacteria is a new technique. Like all innovations, experimentation and refinement is needed. I commend Cargill to continue with Beef Products, Inc., I commend the NY Times for reporting these new innovations.

We as consumers need to learn what is happening to our food, especially the food that we put into our bodies.

We as consumers also need to express our opinion. Do we feel full disclosure of the ingredients, even the ingredients used in processing our food is needed? Most of us do - but we must speak up and ask the needed questions.

New technologies are not something to be scared of - they are something to embrace, to learn and to grow with - not against.

Full disclosure is needed by the food industry.  Americans love change but hate deception.  Informing us, letting us decide is the democratic way.  The food industry needs to inform the consumer.  Sharing information will create goodwill around the world.  Democracy was stated as an experiment, we, American love experiments.

The troublesome item for Americans is deception.  Open and honest communication with the consumer, especially on critical health matters is paramount.

© 2010 Kelly Kline Burnett


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      Karen Russell 8 years ago