NH3N vs. NH4NO3

What's the Difference?

NH3N and NH4NO3 are both chemical compounds that contain nitrogen. NH3N, also known as ammonia nitrogen, is a compound composed of ammonia (NH3) and nitrogen (N). It is commonly used as a measure of the amount of ammonia present in water or soil, indicating the level of pollution or contamination. On the other hand, NH4NO3, also known as ammonium nitrate, is a compound composed of ammonium (NH4) and nitrate (NO3). It is widely used as a fertilizer due to its high nitrogen content, which promotes plant growth. While both compounds contain nitrogen, NH3N is primarily used as an indicator of pollution, while NH4NO3 is used as a fertilizer.


SynonymsAmmonia NitrogenAmmonium Nitrate
Chemical FormulaNH3NNH4NO3
CompositionAmmonia and NitrogenAmmonium and Nitrate
State at Room TemperatureGasSolid
OdorPungentNo distinct odor
UsesFertilizers, wastewater treatmentFertilizers, explosives

Further Detail


Ammonia (NH3) and ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) are both nitrogen-based compounds commonly used in various industries and applications. While they share some similarities, they also have distinct attributes that make them suitable for different purposes. In this article, we will explore and compare the properties, uses, and environmental impacts of NH3 and NH4NO3.


NH3, also known as ammonia, is a colorless gas with a pungent odor. It has a molecular weight of 17.03 g/mol and a boiling point of -33.34°C. Ammonia is highly soluble in water, forming a strong alkaline solution. On the other hand, NH4NO3, or ammonium nitrate, is a white crystalline solid with a molecular weight of 80.04 g/mol. It has a melting point of 169.6°C and is also highly soluble in water.

One key difference between NH3 and NH4NO3 is their pH levels. NH3 is a weak base and can increase the pH of a solution, making it more alkaline. In contrast, NH4NO3 is a neutral salt and does not significantly affect the pH of a solution. This difference in pH properties is important when considering their applications in various industries.


NH3 has a wide range of applications. It is commonly used in the production of fertilizers, where it provides a source of nitrogen for plants. Ammonia is also used in the manufacturing of various chemicals, such as plastics, dyes, and pharmaceuticals. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in refrigeration systems as a refrigerant. The ability of NH3 to form a strong alkaline solution makes it useful in cleaning products, including household cleaners and industrial solvents.

NH4NO3, on the other hand, is primarily used as a fertilizer. It is a popular choice among farmers due to its high nitrogen content, which promotes plant growth. Ammonium nitrate is also utilized in the explosives industry, where it serves as a key ingredient in the production of explosives and blasting agents. Its stability and ability to release oxygen when decomposed make it suitable for these applications.

While both NH3 and NH4NO3 have agricultural uses, their different pH properties make them suitable for different soil conditions. NH3, being alkaline, can be beneficial for acidic soils, helping to neutralize the pH and improve nutrient availability. NH4NO3, being neutral, is more suitable for neutral or alkaline soils where pH adjustment is not required.

Environmental Impact

When it comes to environmental impact, both NH3 and NH4NO3 have their own considerations. NH3 is a potent greenhouse gas and contributes to air pollution when released into the atmosphere. It can react with other pollutants to form particulate matter and smog, leading to respiratory issues and environmental damage. Additionally, excessive ammonia runoff from agricultural activities can contaminate water bodies, causing eutrophication and harming aquatic ecosystems.

NH4NO3, on the other hand, has its own set of environmental concerns. While it is a valuable fertilizer, improper handling or storage of ammonium nitrate can lead to accidents and explosions. The infamous explosion in Beirut in 2020, which caused significant damage and loss of life, was attributed to the mishandling of a large quantity of ammonium nitrate. Therefore, strict regulations and safety measures are necessary to prevent such incidents.

Furthermore, excessive use of NH4NO3 as a fertilizer can contribute to nitrogen pollution. When applied in excess, it can leach into groundwater or runoff into water bodies, leading to nutrient imbalances and harmful algal blooms. These blooms can deplete oxygen levels in water, causing harm to aquatic organisms and disrupting ecosystems.


In conclusion, NH3 and NH4NO3 are nitrogen-based compounds with distinct properties and uses. NH3 is a gas with alkaline properties, widely used in various industries and applications, including fertilizers, chemicals, and refrigeration. NH4NO3, on the other hand, is a solid salt primarily used as a fertilizer and in the explosives industry. While both compounds have their environmental impacts, NH3 contributes to air and water pollution, while NH4NO3 requires careful handling to prevent accidents and can contribute to nitrogen pollution. Understanding the attributes of NH3 and NH4NO3 is crucial for their responsible use and minimizing their environmental impact.

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