What is the chemical composition of ammonia? Well, ammonia is an inorganic compound made of nitrogen and hydrogen. The ratio of nitrogen to hydrogen is 1:3, meaning that ammonia is made of one nitrogen atom binding with three hydrogen atoms, giving the molecular formula of NH3.
Ammonia has been a part of industries for ages. It is a naturally occurring chemical produced when bacteria in the soil capture the air nitrogen and transform it into ammonia. The production of ammonia also results from the decomposition of living organisms, such as decayed animals or withered plants.
Hydrogen is three parts in ammonia; hence it is a major element. The question is, how is hydrogen acquired? It can be done in two ways:
- Electrolysis of water
- The reaction between steam and methane
For the electrolysis of water, you need an electric current to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen. The water is decomposed into hydrogen and water using an electrolyzer that comprises an electrolyte, cathode, and anode.
The process that takes place in the unit involves these steps:
- Water develops protons at the anode, hydrogen ions, and oxygen.
- The protons reach the cathode, leaving the oxygen.
- The electrons at the anode reach the cathode.
- The electrons and protons team together and form hydrogen at the cathode.
Methane and steam reaction
The approach includes the reaction of hydrocarbon with steam at a temperature ranging from 700 degrees Celsius to 1000 degrees Celsius.
The production occurs at very high pressure. A small quantity of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide is also generated in this reaction.
The benefits of this approach are:
- Hydrogen production is more
- The method can reuse carbon monoxide for the production of hydrogen.
Nitrogen is a major element source of ammonia. It is acquired through fractional distillation of liquid air or a chemical reaction between air and methane.
Fractional distillation of liquid air
Compress air at 200 degrees Celsius, and all gases leaving oxygen and nitrogen gets removed. These two gases are then liquefied at a low temperature beyond the liquefaction points of nitrogen and oxygen. This way, liquid nitrogen gets separated from the air. Nitrogen rises, leaving oxygen at the bottom.
The benefit of this process is:
- Nitrogen gas is pure.
- The process is highly effective and efficient.
Methane and air reaction
The air and methane reaction happens to be an exothermic combustive. Methane and oxygen react in the air making around 21% air. The other 79% is nitrogen. The reaction of methane in the air gets oxidized into carbon dioxide.
The process undergoes another step, releasing nitrogen and separating from water and carbon dioxide.
The benefit of this process is:
- The process is comparatively cheaper
- The combustion process is exothermic and doesn’t need any energy.
Once both hydrogen and nitrogen are released from their respective process, they undergo a reaction for the synthesis ammonia. The reaction is simple and doesn’t involve any drastic steps. Ammonia is one of the most commonly used chemical compounds in industries and is produced in massive amounts.