Unveiling the Chemistry and Applications of Ammonium Carbonate: A Comprehensive Guide

Unveiling the Chemistry and Applications of Ammonium Carbonate: A Comprehensive Guide


Ammonium carbonate, a compound with a rich history in both chemistry and industry, plays a multifaceted role in various applications. This article aims to delve into the properties, uses, production methods, and historical significance of ammonium carbonate, shedding light on its diverse contributions to different fields.

Market Dynamics

The global ammonium carbonate market is expected to register a steady revenue CAGR during the forecast period. Ammonium carbonate is used in the textile industry for dyeing and printing. These salts improve pigment fastness on fiber, particularly wet fastness. As a result, ammonium carbonate salt is widely used in the textile industry. The engagement and dispersion of reactive dyes in these textile printing methods have previously been hampered by the requirement that printing pastes contain an alkali substance in order to consume a reactive dye, further limiting the dyeing process. As a result, the material of the fabric becomes stained during the washing process. To avoid this, ammonium carbonate salt is used to ensure proper fabric dyeing and to improve fastness properties. These factors are expected to drive market revenue growth during the forecast period.

The white crystalline salt ammonium carbonate [(NH4)2CO3] is also known as baker’s ammonia or hartshorn. It is water-soluble and decomposes in hot water. It decomposes into gaseous ammonia, carbon dioxide, and water vapor when heated. It has conventionally been used as a carminative and stomachic. It serves as a foaming agent in the production of expanded material. Ammonium carbonate is also used in cosmetics and personal care, fire extinguishers, textiles (mordant; dyeing), wine fermentation accelerator, ceramics, washing wool, adhesives, Sealant chemicals, and organic chemicals. In the chemical industry, ammonium carbonate is also used for analytical purposes.

Understanding Ammonium Carbonate:

Ammonium carbonate (NH₄₂CO₃) is a white crystalline solid with the chemical formula (NH₄)₂CO₃. It is composed of ammonium ions (NH₄⁺) and carbonate ions (CO₃²⁻). While it has several historical names, including “hartshorn” and “salt of hartshorn,” it is most commonly referred to as ammonium carbonate.

Chemical Properties:

  1. Formula: (NH₄)₂CO₃
  2. Molecular Weight: 96.09 g/mol
  3. Appearance: White crystalline solid
  4. Solubility: Soluble in water, insoluble in most organic solvents
  5. Odor: Ammonia-like odor due to its decomposition

Production Methods:

  1. Synthesis from Ammonia and Carbon Dioxide:
    • Ammonium carbonate can be synthesized by passing gaseous ammonia (NH₃) and carbon dioxide (CO₂) through water, resulting in the formation of a solid precipitate.
  2. Ammonium Bicarbonate Reaction:
    • Ammonium carbonate can be obtained by the reaction of ammonium bicarbonate with ammonium chloride, leading to the precipitation of ammonium carbonate.

Historical Significance:

Ammonium carbonate has a storied history, often recognized as “baker’s ammonia” or “smelling salts.” In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was a common leavening agent in baking before the advent of modern baking powder. The release of ammonia gas during baking would cause dough to rise, creating light and airy textures in baked goods.

Uses of Ammonium Carbonate:

1. Leavening Agent in Baking:

  • Despite its historical use, ammonium carbonate is less common in modern baking due to the evolution of more stable leavening agents. It is still used in certain traditional recipes and some specialty baked goods.

2. Ammonia Production:

  • Ammonium carbonate is a precursor in the production of ammonia. Upon heating, it decomposes to release ammonia gas, which is a vital component in various industrial processes, including fertilizer production.

3. pH Buffer:

  • Ammonium carbonate acts as a pH buffer in certain chemical processes, helping to maintain a specific pH level in solutions.

4. Preservative in Tobacco Industry:

  • It has been used as a preservative and flavoring agent in the tobacco industry.

5. Laboratory Applications:

  • In laboratories, ammonium carbonate is employed in various chemical reactions and experiments.

6. Smelling Salts:

  • Historically, ammonium carbonate was widely used as smelling salts, known for its strong ammonia odor. It was utilized to revive individuals who had fainted.

Safety Considerations:

  1. Ammonia Release:
    • Ammonium carbonate decomposes upon heating, releasing ammonia gas. Adequate ventilation is crucial when working with this compound.
  2. Irritating to Eyes and Respiratory System:
    • Ammonium carbonate can cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory system. Personal protective equipment, including goggles and masks, should be used.

Modern Alternatives:

While ammonium carbonate has a place in history, modern baking and industrial processes often rely on more stable and convenient alternatives. Baking powder, which includes a combination of sodium bicarbonate and acid, has become the standard leavening agent in most recipes.


Ammonium carbonate, with its distinctive history and versatile applications, holds a unique place in the world of chemistry and industry. While its use as a leavening agent in baking has diminished over time, its role in ammonia production and certain chemical processes remains significant. Understanding the properties, production methods, and historical significance of ammonium carbonate contributes to our appreciation of its diverse contributions to various fields and its place in the evolution of chemical processes and industrial practices.

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