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Ammonium sulfate is an inorganic salt characterized by the chemical formula (NH4)2SO4. While this compound finds diverse industrial applications, caution is advised in its handling due to potential hazards to human health. Its principal role is as an agricultural fertilizer, boasting a composition of 21% nitrogen and 24% sulfur. In its natural state, ammonium sulfate is encountered as the mineral mascagnite, which is relatively rare and can be found in volcanic fumaroles and coal fire dumps.
Ammonium sulfate is produced through a process involving the reaction of ammonia with sulfuric acid, as represented by the chemical equation:
2NH3 + H2SO4 → (NH4)2SO4
Alternatively, another method for the preparation of ammonium sulfate involves introducing gypsum salt to an ammonium carbonate solution. This reaction results in the formation of calcium carbonate and ammonium sulfate as products. The calcium carbonate precipitates out of the mixture, leaving behind a solution containing ammonium sulfate.
In the food sector, ammonium sulfate serves as an acidity regulator in flour and bread. The food-grade variant of ammonium sulfate has received recognition as safe by both the US FDA and the European Union.
Within the realm of agriculture, ammonium sulfate finds utility as a fertilizer for crops cultivated in alkaline soil. The addition of ammonium sulfate to alkaline soil results in the release of ammonium ions, accompanied by a slight acidification of the soil, thereby reducing its pH. Beyond this, it serves as a nitrogen source, promoting plant growth.
In horticulture, ammonium sulfate is employed as a spray adjuvant for water-soluble insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Its role is to bind iron and calcium cations present in the water.
Ammonium sulfate plays a crucial role in analytical applications, particularly in purifying proteins through selective precipitation or salting out. This method facilitates the separation of complex protein mixtures.
Notably, ammonium sulfate is listed as an ingredient in numerous US vaccines by the Centre for Disease Control.