The key difference between ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulphate is that ammonium nitrate is the result of a reaction between ammonia and nitric acid while ammonium sulphate is produced when ammonia reacts with sulfuric acid. Furthermore, considering their main application as a fertilizer, ammonium nitrate suits better for acidic soils while ammonium sulphate better suits alkaline soils.
Ammonium nitrate and ammonium Sulphate are two salts of ammonia that is useful for various purposes. Moreover, ammonium nitrate is also useful as an ingredient in explosives, but its main use is in agriculture as a fertilizer. Ammonium Sulphate is also an inorganic salt of ammonia. It is important as fertilizer for the soil. Let us see the difference between the two salts.
What is Ammonium Nitrate?
Ammonium nitrate is an inorganic salt containing a nitrate anion linked to an ammonium cation. Therefore, we can name it as a nitrate salt of ammonium cation. The chemical formula for this compound is NH4NO3. This compound exists as a white crystal solid that is highly water soluble. We use it mainly for agricultural purposes as a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Another major application is its use in the production of explosives.
The molar mass of this compound is 80.043 g/mol. It appears as a white-grey solid. The melting point of this compound is 169.6 °C, therefore, it decomposes above 210 °C. The dissolution of this compound in water is endothermic. When considering the occurrence, it occurs as a natural mineral often in combination with halide minerals. In the industrial production process, we can use an acid-base reaction between ammonia and nitric acid in order to produce ammonium nitrate. There we should use ammonia in its anhydrous form and nitric acid in its concentrated form.
What is Ammonium Sulphate?
Ammonium sulphate is an inorganic compound containing an ammonium cation linked with a sulphate anion. The chemical formula of this compound is (NH4)2SO4. Therefore, it has two ammonium cations per one sulphate anion. It is an inorganic salt of sulphate with many important uses.
Its molar mass is 132.14 g/mol; thus, it appears as fine, hygroscopic granules or crystals. Moreover, the melting point ranges from 235 to 280 °C and above this temperature range, the compound decomposes. We can produce this compound via treating ammonia with sulfuric acid. In this we use a mixture of ammonia gas and water vapour in a reactor. We can add concentrated sulfuric acid into this reactor. The reaction between these components will form ammonium sulphate.
When considering the uses of this compound, we can use it as a fertilizer mainly for alkaline soils. Moreover, we can use it in the production of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc. In addition, we use this compound for the purification of protein via precipitation in the biochemistry laboratory. We also use this as a food additive.
What is the Difference Between Ammonium Nitrate and Ammonium Sulphate?
While ammonium nitrate is the result of a reaction between ammonia and nitric acid, ammonium sulphate is produced when ammonia reacts with sulfuric acid. This is the key difference between ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulphate. Despite having nitrogen as a common substance in both the salts, they have different physical and chemical properties.
Because of the differences in their properties, there is some difference between ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulphate in application. Sulphate ions in ammonium sulphate work as a stimulant for soils that are alkaline. These ions help to decrease the pH value of the soil making it ideal for the growth of plants. This is why we can find ammonium sulphate to be widely in use in the fertilizer industry. Ammonium nitrate also works as a soil fertilizer. It can be sprinkled in the soil like a spray, or one can spray it in the powder form. Also, it suits better for acidic soils. So it is prudent to get the quality of your soil checked before finalizing one of the two fertilizers.
Furthermore, ammonium nitrate is also used as cold packs as it releases exothermic energy when added to water making the product cold. Apart from the above, there is another use of ammonium nitrate, and that is as an active ingredient in explosives.
The below infographic presents more details on the difference between ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulphate in tabular form.
Summary – Ammonium Nitrate vs Ammonium Sulphate
Both ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulphate are useful as fertilizers. The key difference between ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulphate is that ammonium nitrate is the result of a reaction between ammonia and nitric acid while ammonium sulphate is produced when ammonia reacts with sulfuric acid.
1. “Ammonium Nitrate.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Sept. 2018. Available here