A fertilizer that causes plants to grow but won’t work for making bombs has been created by an engineer at Sandia National Labs in New Mexico. Sandia will not patent this new non-exploding fertilizer, so that anyone can make it without having to pay a fee.
Ammonium nitrate is a type of fertilizer used around the world, but it also can be incorporated into bombs to make them explode. It is legal in Pakistan and is very explosive when mixed with diesel fuel. In neighboring Afghanistan, it is illegal but still very present in the many improvised exploding devices (IEDs) in that country. For example, in 2012 there were well over 8,000 IEDS in Afghanistan containing ammonium nitrate.
IEDs have been the most deadly weapons used against American troops in Afghanistan. Of course, IEDs are used outside Afghanistan as well, and we all see the news accounts of explosions killing innocent people in places like Iraq.
‘One of Sandia’s priorities is deploying the technologies that result from our research for the public good.We think that making the fertilizer formula as accessible as possible is the best way to accomplish this mission,” explained a Sandia manager. (Source: Sandia.gov)
In 2012 alone, about 1,900 American troops were injured or killed by IEDs. Terrorists also make bombs using ammonium nitrate – the largest one in recent history was used at Oklahoma City to kill 168 people.
Sandia optical engineer Kevin Fleming retired from Sandia in February but he was intrigued by the idea it might be possible to create a non-detonating fertilizer that was just as effective for growing plants as ammonium nitrate.
He wound up mixing iron sulfate with ammonium nitrate to make
ammonium sulfate and iron nitrate, which are not explosive when
mixed with fuel. The iron sulfate component, he said, is good for soil.
Replacing ammonium nitrate will not be easy. It is made in huge quantities and is embedded in agricultural practices in some parts of the world. One company in China says on their website they make 800,000 tons of ammonium nitrate a year.
War is often thought as only a human issue, but it causes a great deal of damage to the environment as well.