The ammonium cation is a positively charged polyatomic ion with the chemical formula NH+
. It is formed by the protonation of ammonia (NH3). Ammonium is also a general name for positively charged or protonated substituted amines and quaternary ammonium cations (NR+
), where one or more hydrogen atoms are replaced by organic groups (indicated by R).

2-D skeletal version of the ammonium ion
Ball-and-stick model of the ammonium cation
Space-filling model of the ammonium cation
IUPAC name
Systematic IUPAC name
3D model (JSmol)
MeSH D000644
Molar mass 18.039 g·mol−1
Acidity (pKa) 9.25
Conjugate base Ammonia
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).

Acid–base properties

Hydrochloric acid ammonia
Fumes from hydrochloric acid and ammonia forming a white cloud of ammonium chloride

The ammonium ion is generated when ammonia, a weak base, reacts with Brønsted acids (proton donors):

H+ + NH3 → NH+

The ammonium ion is mildly acidic, reacting with Brønsted bases to return to the uncharged ammonia molecule:

+ B → HB + NH3

Thus, treatment of concentrated solutions of ammonium salts with strong base gives ammonia. When ammonia is dissolved in water, a tiny amount of it converts to ammonium ions:

H2O + NH3 ⇌ OH + NH+

The degree to which ammonia forms the ammonium ion depends on the pH of the solution. If the pH is low, the equilibrium shifts to the right: more ammonia molecules are converted into ammonium ions. If the pH is high (the concentration of hydrogen ions is low), the equilibrium shifts to the left: the hydroxide ion abstracts a proton from the ammonium ion, generating ammonia.

Formation of ammonium compounds can also occur in the vapor phase; for example, when ammonia vapor comes in contact with hydrogen chloride vapor, a white cloud of ammonium chloride forms, which eventually settles out as a solid in a thin white layer on surfaces.

Ammonium salts

Bildung Ammonium
Formation of ammonium

Ammonium cation is found in a variety of salts such as ammonium carbonate, ammonium chloride and ammonium nitrate. Most simple ammonium salts are very soluble in water. An exception is ammonium hexachloroplatinate, the formation of which was once used as a test for ammonium. The ammonium salts of nitrate and especially perchlorate are highly explosive, in these cases ammonium is the reducing agent.

In an unusual process, ammonium ions form an amalgam. Such species are prepared by the electrolysis of an ammonium solution using a mercury cathode.[2] This amalgam eventually decomposes to release ammonia and hydrogen.[3]

Structure and bonding

The lone electron pair on the nitrogen atom (N) in ammonia, represented as a line above the N, forms the bond with a proton (H+). Thereafter, all four N–H bonds are equivalent, being polar covalent bonds. The ion has a tetrahedral structure and is isoelectronic with methane and borohydride. In terms of size, the ammonium cation (rionic = 175 pm) resembles the cesium cation (rionic = 183 pm).

Organic ammonium ions

The hydrogen atoms in the ammonium ion can be substituted with an alkyl group or some other organic group to form a substituted ammonium ion (IUPAC nomenclature: aminium ion). Depending on the number of organic groups, the ammonium cation is called a primary, secondary, tertiary, or quaternary. With the exception of the quaternary ammonium cations, the organic ammonium cations are weak acids.

An example of a reaction forming an ammonium ion is that between dimethylamine, (CH3)2NH, and an acid to give the dimethylaminium cation, (CH3)2NH+


Quaternary ammonium cations have four organic groups attached to the nitrogen atom, they lack a hydrogen atom bonded to the nitrogen atom. These cations, such as the tetra-n-butylammonium cation, are sometimes used to replace sodium or potassium ions to increase the solubility of the associated anion in organic solvents. Primary, secondary, and tertiary ammonium salts serve the same function, but are less lipophilic. They are also used as phase-transfer catalysts and surfactants.

An unusual class of organic ammonium salts are derivatives of amine radical cations, R3N+• such as tris(4-bromophenyl)ammonium hexachloroantimonate.


Ammonium ions are a waste product of the metabolism of animals. In fish and aquatic invertebrates, it is excreted directly into the water. In mammals, sharks, and amphibians, it is converted in the urea cycle to urea, because urea is less toxic and can be stored more efficiently. In birds, reptiles, and terrestrial snails, metabolic ammonium is converted into uric acid, which is solid and can therefore be excreted with minimal water loss.[4]

Ammonium is an important source of nitrogen for many plant species, especially those growing on hypoxic soils. However, it is also toxic to most crop species and is rarely applied as a sole nitrogen source.[5]

Ammonium metal

The ammonium ion has very similar properties to the heavier alkali metals and is often considered a close relative.[6][7][8] Ammonium is expected to behave as a metal (NH+
ions in a sea of electrons) at very high pressures, such as inside gas giant planets such as Uranus and Neptune.[7][8]

Under normal conditions, ammonium does not exist as a pure metal, but does as an amalgam (alloy with mercury).[9]

See also


  1. ^ International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (2005). Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry (IUPAC Recommendations 2005). Cambridge (UK): RSCIUPAC. ISBN 0-85404-438-8. pp. 71,105,314. Electronic version.
  2. ^ Pseudo-binary compounds
  3. ^ "Ammonium Salts". VIAS Encyclopedia.
  4. ^ Campbell, Neil A.; Jane B. Reece (2002). "44". Biology (6th ed.). San Francisco: Pearson Education, Inc. pp. 937–938. ISBN 978-0-8053-6624-2.
  5. ^ Britto, DT; Kronzucker, HJ (2002). "NH4+ toxicity in higher plants: a critical review" (PDF). Journal of Plant Physiology. 159 (6): 567–584. doi:10.1078/0176-1617-0774.
  6. ^ Holleman, Arnold Frederik; Wiberg, Egon (2001), Wiberg, Nils, ed., Inorganic Chemistry, translated by Eagleson, Mary; Brewer, William, San Diego/Berlin: Academic Press/De Gruyter, ISBN 0-12-352651-5
  7. ^ a b Stevenson, D. J. (November 20, 1975). "Does metallic ammonium exist?". Nature. 258 (5532): 222–223. Bibcode:1975Natur.258..222S. doi:10.1038/258222a0. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
  8. ^ a b Bernal, M. J. M.; Massey, H. S. W. (February 3, 1954). "Metallic Ammonium" (PDF). Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 114 (2): 172–179. Bibcode:1954MNRAS.114..172B. doi:10.1093/mnras/114.2.172. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
  9. ^ Reedy, J.H. (October 1, 1929). "Lecture demonstration of ammonium amalgam". Journal of Chemical Education. 6 (10): 1767. Bibcode:1929JChEd...6.1767R. doi:10.1021/ed006p1767.

ANFO (or AN/FO, for ammonium nitrate/fuel oil) is a widely used bulk industrial explosive. Its name is commonly pronounced as "an-fo".

It consists of 94% porous prilled ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) (AN), which acts as the oxidizing agent and absorbent for the fuel, and 6% number 2 fuel oil (FO).ANFO has found wide use in coal mining, quarrying, metal mining, and civil construction in applications where its low cost and ease of use may outweigh the benefits of other explosives, such as water resistance, oxygen balance, higher detonation velocity, or performance in small-diameter columns. ANFO is also widely used in avalanche hazard mitigation.It accounts for an estimated 80% of the 2.7×109 kg (6×10^9 lb) of explosives used annually in North America.The press and other media have used the term ANFO loosely and imprecisely in describing improvised explosive devices (IEDs), in cases of fertilizer bombs (see Malicious use below).The use of ANFO originated in the 1950s.


An alum () is a type of chemical compound, usually a hydrated double sulfate salt of aluminium with the general formula XAl(SO4)2·12H2O, where X is a monovalent cation such as potassium or ammonium. By itself, "alum" often refers to potassium alum, with the formula KAl(SO4)2·12H2O. Other alums are named after the monovalent ion, such as sodium alum and ammonium alum.

The name "alum" is also used, more generally, for salts with the same formula and structure, except that aluminium is replaced by another trivalent metal ion like chromium(III), and/or sulfur is replaced by other chalcogen like selenium. The most common of these analogs is chrome alum KCr(SO4)2·12H2O.

In some industries, the name "alum" (or "papermaker's alum") is used to refer to aluminium sulfate Al2(SO4)3·nH2O. Most industrial flocculation done with "alum" actually uses aluminium sulfate. In medicine, "alum" may also refer to aluminium hydroxide gel used as a vaccine adjuvant.


In organic chemistry, amines (, UK also ) are compounds and functional groups that contain a basic nitrogen atom with a lone pair. Amines are formally derivatives of ammonia, wherein one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced by a substituent such as an alkyl or aryl group (these may respectively be called alkylamines and arylamines; amines in which both types of substituent are attached to one nitrogen atom may be called alkylarylamines). Important amines include amino acids, biogenic amines, trimethylamine, and aniline; see Category:Amines for a list of amines. Inorganic derivatives of ammonia are also called amines, such as chloramine (NClH2); see Category:Inorganic amines.The substituent -NH2 is called an amino group.Compounds with a nitrogen atom attached to a carbonyl group, thus having the structure R–CO–NR′R″, are called amides and have different chemical properties from amines.


Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula NH3. The simplest pnictogen hydride, ammonia is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent smell. It is a common nitrogenous waste, particularly among aquatic organisms, and it contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or indirectly, is also a building block for the synthesis of many pharmaceutical products and is used in many commercial cleaning products. It is mainly collected by downward displacement of both air and water. Ammonia is named for the Ammonians, worshipers of the Egyptian god Amun, who used ammonium chloride in their rituals.Although common in nature and in wide use, ammonia is both caustic and hazardous in its concentrated form. It is classified as an extremely hazardous substance in the United States, and is subject to strict reporting requirements by facilities which produce, store, or use it in significant quantities.The global industrial production of ammonia in 2014 was 176 million tonnes, a 16% increase over the 2006 global industrial production of 152 million tonnes. Industrial ammonia is sold either as ammonia liquor (usually 28% ammonia in water) or as pressurized or refrigerated anhydrous liquid ammonia transported in tank cars or cylinders.NH3 boils at −33.34 °C (−28.012 °F) at a pressure of one atmosphere, so the liquid must be stored under pressure or at low temperature. Household ammonia or ammonium hydroxide is a solution of NH3 in water. The concentration of such solutions is measured in units of the Baumé scale (density), with 26 degrees baumé (about 30% (by weight) ammonia at 15.5 °C or 59.9 °F) being the typical high-concentration commercial product.

Ammonia solution

Ammonia solution, also known as ammonia water, ammonium hydroxide, ammoniacal liquor, ammonia liquor, aqua ammonia, aqueous ammonia, or (inaccurately) ammonia, is a solution of ammonia in water. It can be denoted by the symbols NH3(aq). Although the name ammonium hydroxide suggests an alkali with composition [NH4+][OH−], it is actually impossible to isolate samples of NH4OH. The ions NH4+ and OH− do not account for a significant fraction of the total amount of ammonia except in extremely dilute solutions.

Ammonium bicarbonate

Ammonium bicarbonate is an inorganic compound with formula (NH4)HCO3, simplified to NH5CO3. The compound has many names, reflecting its long history. Chemically speaking, it is the bicarbonate salt of the ammonium ion. It is a colourless solid that degrades readily to carbon dioxide, water and ammonia.

Ammonium bifluoride

Ammonium hydrogen fluoride is the inorganic compound with the formula NH4HF2 or NH4F·HF. It is produced from ammonia and hydrogen fluoride. This colourless salt is a glass-etchant and an intermediate in a once-contemplated route to hydrofluoric acid.

Ammonium carbonate

Ammonium carbonate is a salt with the chemical formula (NH4)2CO3. Since it readily degrades to gaseous ammonia and carbon dioxide upon heating, it is used as a leavening agent and also as smelling salt. It is also known as baker's ammonia and was a predecessor to the more modern leavening agents baking soda and baking powder. It is a component of what was formerly known as sal volatile and salt of hartshorn.

Ammonium chloride

Ammonium chloride is an inorganic compound with the formula NH4Cl and a white crystalline salt that is highly soluble in water. Solutions of ammonium chloride are mildly acidic. Sal ammoniac is a name of the natural, mineralogical form of ammonium chloride. The mineral is commonly formed on burning coal dumps from condensation of coal-derived gases. It is also found around some types of volcanic vents. It is mainly used as fertilizer and a flavouring agent in some types of liquorice. It is the product from the reaction of hydrochloric acid and ammonia.

Ammonium fluoride

Ammonium fluoride is the inorganic compound with the formula NH4F. It crystallizes as small colourless prisms, having a sharp saline taste, and is exceedingly soluble in water.

Ammonium fluorosilicate

Ammonium fluorosilicate (also known as ammonium hexafluorosilicate, ammonium fluosilicate or ammonium silicofluoride) has the formula (NH4)2SiF6. It is a toxic chemical, like all salts of fluorosilicic acid. It is made of white crystals, which have at least three polymorphs and appears in nature as rare minerals cryptohalite or bararite.

Ammonium hydrosulfide

Ammonium hydrosulfide is the chemical compound with the formula (NH4)HS.

Ammonium nitrate

Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound, the nitrate salt of the ammonium cation. It has the chemical formula NH4NO3, simplified to N2H4O3. It is a white crystal solid and is highly soluble in water. It is predominantly used in agriculture as a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Its other major use is as a component of explosive mixtures used in mining, quarrying, and civil construction. It is the major constituent of ANFO, a popular industrial explosive which accounts for 80% of explosives used in North America; similar formulations have been used in improvised explosive devices. Many countries are phasing out its use in consumer applications due to concerns over its potential for misuse.

Ammonium sulfate

Ammonium sulfate (American English and international scientific usage; ammonium sulphate in British English); (NH4)2SO4, is an inorganic salt with a number of commercial uses. The most common use is as a soil fertilizer. It contains 21% nitrogen and 24% sulfur.


Betaproteobacteria are a class of gram-negative bacteria, and one of the eight classes of the phylum Proteobacteria.The Betaproteobacteria are a class comprising over 75 genera and 400 species of bacteria. Together, the Betaproteobacteria represent a broad variety of metabolic strategies and occupy diverse environments from obligate pathogens living within host organisms to oligotrophic groundwater ecosystems. Whilst most members of the Betaproteobacteria are heterotrophic, deriving both their carbon and electrons from organocarbon sources, some are photoheterotrophic, deriving energy from light and carbon from organocarbon sources. Other genera are autotrophic, deriving their carbon from bicarbonate or carbon dioxide and their electrons from reduced inorganic ions such as nitrite, ammonium, thiosulfate or sulfide - many of these chemolithoautotrophic Betaproteobacteria are economically important, with roles in maintaining soil pH and in elementary cycling. Other economically important members of the Betaproteobacteria are able to use nitrate as their terminal electron acceptor and can be used industrially to remove nitrate from wastewater by denitrification. A number of Betaproteobacteria are diazotrophs, meaning that they can fix molecular nitrogen from the air as their nitrogen source for growth - this is important to the farming industry as it is a primary means of ammonium levels in soils rising without the presence of leguminous plants.

Nitrogen cycle

The nitrogen cycle is the biogeochemical cycle by which nitrogen is converted into multiple chemical forms as it circulates among atmosphere, terrestrial, and marine ecosystems. The conversion of nitrogen can be carried out through both biological and physical processes. Important processes in the nitrogen cycle include fixation, ammonification, nitrification, and denitrification. The majority of Earth's atmosphere (78%) is atmosphere nitrogen, making it the largest source of nitrogen. However, atmospheric nitrogen has limited availability for biological use, leading to a scarcity of usable nitrogen in many types of ecosystems.

The nitrogen cycle is of particular interest to ecologists because nitrogen availability can affect the rate of key ecosystem processes, including primary production and decomposition. Human activities such as fossil fuel combustion, use of artificial nitrogen fertilizers, and release of nitrogen in wastewater have dramatically altered the global nitrogen cycle.

Quaternary ammonium cation

Quaternary ammonium cations, also known as quats, are positively charged polyatomic ions of the structure NR+4, R being an alkyl group or an aryl group. Unlike the ammonium ion (NH+4) and the primary, secondary, or tertiary ammonium cations, the quaternary ammonium cations are permanently charged, independent of the pH of their solution. Quaternary ammonium salts or quaternary ammonium compounds (called quaternary amines in oilfield parlance) are salts of quaternary ammonium cations.

Salt (chemistry)

In chemistry, a salt is an ionic compound that can be formed by the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. Salts are composed of related numbers of cations (positively charged ions) and anions (negative ions) so that the product is electrically neutral (without a net charge). These component ions can be inorganic, such as chloride (Cl−), or organic, such as acetate (CH3CO−2); and can be monatomic, such as fluoride (F−), or polyatomic, such as sulfate (SO2−4).

Tiemonium iodide

Tiemonium iodide is an antimuscarinic. It is poorly absorbed from the gut. The active moiety is tiemonium, a quaternary ammonium cation.

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