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and explains the decomposition as taking place, 2NH3·NI3 + 6Zn(C2H5)2 = 6ZnC2H5·I + 2NH3 + 2N(C2H5)3. The hydrogen in ammonia is capable of replacement by metals, thus magnesium burns in the gas with the formation of magnesium nitride Mg3N2, and when the gas is passed over heated sodium or potassium, sodamide, NaNH2, and potassamide, KNH2, are formed.
One of the most characteristic properties of ammonia is its power of combining directly with acids to form salts; thus with hydrochloric acid it forms ammonium chloride (sal-ammoniac); with nitric acid, ammonium nitrate, &c. It is to be noted that H. B. Baker (Journal of Chem. Soc., 1894, lxv. p. 612) has shown that perfectly dry ammonia will not combine with perfectly dry hydrochloric acid, moisture being necessary to bring about the reaction. The aqueous solution of ammonia is very basic in its reactions, and since it is a weak electrolyte, one must assume the solution to contain a certain amount of ammonium hydroxide NH4OH, although it is probably chiefly composed of a solution of ammonia in water. (On the constitution of aqueous ammonia solutions see also Carl Frenzel, Zeit für angew. Chemie, xxxii. 3, p. 319.) Ammonia finds a wide application in organic chemistry as a synthetic reagent; it reacts with alkyl iodides to form amines (q.v.), with esters to form acid amides (q.v.), with halogen fatty acids to form amino-acids; while it also combines with isocyanic esters to form alkyl ureas and with the mustard oils to form alkyl thioureas. Aldehydes also combine directly with ammonia.
Liquid ammonia possesses strong ionizing powers, and solutions of salts in liquid ammonia have been much studied. For details see E. C. Franklin and C. A. Kraus, Amer. Chem. Jour., 1899, xxi. p. 8; 1900, xxiv. p. 83; 1902, xxviii. p. 277; also Carl Frenzel, Zeits für Elektrochemie, 1900, vi. p. 477.
The salts produced by the action of ammonia on acids are known as the ammonium salts and all contain the compound radical ammonium (NH4). Numerous attempts have been made to isolate this radical, but so far none have been successful. By the addition of sodium amalgam to a concentrated solution of ammonium chloride, the so-called ammonium amalgam is obtained as a spongy mass which floats on the surface of the liquid; it decomposes readily at ordinary temperatures into ammonia and hydrogen; it does not reduce silver and gold salts, a behaviour which distinguishes it from the amalgams of the alkali metals, and for this reason it is regarded by some chemists as being merely mercury inflated by gaseous ammonia and hydrogen. M. le Blanc has shown, however, that the effect of ammonium amalgam on the magnitude of polarization of a battery is comparable with that of the amalgams of the alkali metals.
Many of the ammonium salts are made from the ammoniacal liquor of gas-works, by heating it with milk of lime and then absorbing the gas so liberated in a suitable acid. (See Gas: Manufacture.)
Ammonium bromide, NH4Br, can be prepared by the direct action of bromine on ammonia. It crystallizes in colourless prisms, possessing a saline taste; it sublimes on heating and is easily soluble in water. On exposure to air it gradually assumes a yellow colour and becomes acid in its reaction.
Ammonium chloride, NH4Cl. (See Sal Ammoniac.)
Ammonium fluoride, NH4F, may be obtained by neutralizing ammonia with hydrofluoric acid. It crystallizes in small prisms, having a sharp saline taste, and is exceedingly soluble in water. It decomposes silicates on being heated with them.
Ammonium iodide, NH4I, can be prepared by the action of hydriodic acid on ammonia. It is easily soluble in water, from which it crystallizes in cubes, and also in alcohol. It gradually turns yellow on standing in moist air, owing to decomposition with liberation of iodine.
Ammonium chlorate, NH4ClO3, is obtained by neutralizing chloric acid with either ammonia or ammonium carbonate, or by precipitating barium, strontium or calcium chlorates with ammonium carbonate. It crystallizes in small needles, which are readily soluble in water, and on heating, decompose at about 102° C., with liberation of nitrogen, chlorine and oxygen. It is soluble in dilute aqueous alcohol, but insoluble in strong alcohol.
Ammonium carbonates. The commercial salt is known as salvolatile or salt of hartshorn and was formerly obtained by the dry distillation of nitrogenous organic matter such as hair, horn, decomposed urine, &c., but is now obtained by heating a mixture of sal-ammoniac, or ammonium sulphate and chalk, to redness in iron retorts, the vapours being condensed in leaden receivers. The crude product is refined by sublimation, when it is obtained as a white fibrous mass, which consists of a mixture of hydrogen ammonium carbonate, NH4·HCO3, and ammonium carbamate, NH2COONH4, in molecular proportions; on account of its possessing this constitution it is sometimes called ammonium sesquicarbonate. It possesses a strong ammoniacal smell, and on digestion with alcohol the carbamate is dissolved and a residue of ammonium bicarbonate is left; a similar decomposition taking place when the sesquicarbonate is exposed to air. Ammonia gas passed into a strong aqueous solution of the sesquicarbonate converts it into normal ammonium carbonate, (NH4)2CO3, which can be obtained in the crystalline condition from a solution prepared at about 30° C. This compound on exposure to air gives off ammonia and passes back to ammonium bicarbonate.
Ammonium bicarbonate, NH4·HCO3, is formed as shown above and also by passing carbon dioxide through a solution of the normal compound, when it is deposited as a white powder, which has no smell and is only slightly soluble in water. The aqueous solution of this salt liberates carbon dioxide on exposure to air or on heating, and becomes alkaline in reaction. The aqueous solutions of all the carbonates when boiled undergo decomposition with liberation of ammonia and of carbon dioxide.
Ammonium nitrate, NH4NO3, is prepared by neutralizing nitric acid with ammonia, or ammonium carbonate, or by double decomposition between potassium nitrate and ammonium sulphate. It can be obtained in three different crystalline forms, the transition points of which are 35° C., 83° C. and 125° C. It is easily soluble in water, a considerable lowering of temperature taking place during the operation; on this account it is sometimes used in the preparation of freezing mixtures. On gentle heating, it is decomposed into water and nitrous oxide. P. E. M. Berthelot in 1883 showed that if ammonium nitrate be rapidly heated the following reaction takes place with explosive violence:-2NH4NO3 = 4H2O + 2N2 + O2.
Ammonium nitrite, NH4NO2, is formed by oxidizing ammonia with ozone or hydrogen peroxide; by precipitating barium or lead nitrites with ammonium sulphate, or silver nitrite with ammonium chloride. The precipitate is filtered off and the solution concentrated. It forms colourless crystals which are soluble in water and decompose on heating, with the formation of nitrogen.
Ammonium phosphates. The normal phosphate, (NH4)3PO4, is obtained as a crystalline powder, on mixing concentrated solutions of ammonia and phosphoric acid, or on the addition of excess of ammonia to the acid phosphate (NH4)2HPO4. It is soluble in water, and the aqueous solution on boiling loses ammonia and the acid phosphate NH4H2PO4 is formed. Diammonium hydrogen phosphate, (NH4)2HPO4, is formed by evaporating a solution of phosphoric acid with excess of ammonia. It crystallizes in large transparent prisms, which melt on heating and decompose, leaving a residue of metaphosphoric acid, (HPO3). Ammonium dihydrogen phosphate, NH4·H2PO4, is formed when a solution of phosphoric acid is added to ammonia until the solution is distinctly acid. It crystallizes in quadratic prisms.
Ammonium sodium hydrogen phosphate, NH4·NaHPO4·4H2O. (See Microcosmic Salt.)
Ammonium sulphate (NH4)2SO4 is prepared commercially from the ammoniacal liquor of gas-works (see Gas: Manufacture) and is purified by recrystallization. It forms large rhombic prisms, has a somewhat saline taste and is easily soluble in water. The aqueous solution on boiling loses some ammonia and forms an acid sulphate. It is used largely as an artificial manure, and also for the preparation of other ammonium salts.
Ammonium persulphate (NH4)2S2O8 has been prepared by H. Marshall (Jour. of Chem. Soc., 1891, lix. p. 777) by the method used for the preparation of the corresponding potassium salt