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Nitrate is a polyatomic ion. It does not exist in nature because of its attraction to other molecules. It usually bonds iwth metals with high electronegativity, such as copper, silver, and iron. There are many daily uses for nitrate.


Nitrate is a polyatomic ion, which is a charged chemical species composed of two or more atoms covalently bonded. In the structure of nitrate, nitrogen is the central atom surrounded by the thee oxygen atoms, forming a trigonal planar. When all electrons are shared equally between atoms, its charge is -1.[1] Nitrate is a conjugate base of nitric acid. Since nitrate can be considered a single unit, it commonly bonds with single elements like iron, copper, and zinc.[2]

Compounds with Nitrate

Ammonium Nitrate

Iron(III) Nitrate

Iron(III) nitrate, also known as ferric nitrate, has the formula Fe(NO3)3. Iron nitrate has a strong attraction to moisture (Deliquescence). If iron nitrate is exposed to the atmosphere, it will absorb moisture from the atmosphere and will form an aqueous solution. Physically, iron nitrate appears as a violet crystalline solid.[3] Iron nitrate is used as a catalyst to synthesize sodium amide from sodium in ammonia.[4] Ferric nitrate is also used in acid jewelry etching that gives a tidy engraving on fine and sterling silver.[5]

Copper(II) Nitrate

Copper(II) Nitrate, an inorganic compound, has a chemical formula of Cu(NO3)2. Anhydrous Copper Nitrate physically appears as a blue crystalline solid. Anhydrous copper is formed when copper metal reacts with Dinitrogen tetroxide(N2O4). Anhydrous copper nitrate is a polymorph, meaning it can exist as more than one crystal structure. Copper nitrate can convert to copper(II) oxide. Copper oxide’s main use is to show voltaic cell reactions in a classroom setting.[6]

Silver Nitrate

Silver nitrate was first discovered in the 13th century when Albertus Magnus recorded nitric acid to separate silver and gold by dissolving silver. He observed that silver nitrate darkened the skin. Silver nitrate, an inorganic compound, has the chemical formula AgNO3 and molecular weight of 169.872 g/mol. Silver nitrate appears as a colorless or white crystalline sold. It will turn dark or black due to the exposure to light or organic matter.[7] Silver nitrate can be created in a laboratory by reacting silver with nitric acid. Silver Nitrate is primarily used to create a solution of copper nitrate by suspending a copper rod in a silver nitrate solution.[8]

Ammonium Nitrate

Ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound, has a molecular mass of 80.043 g/mol. Ammonium nitrate physically appears as colorless crystalline solid.[9] Ammonium nitrate is readily soluble in water. Although ammonium nitrate is a natural mineral, it can only be found in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Currently, it is mostly obtained synthetically. It can be obtained by neutralizing nitric acid with ammonia. Ammonium nitrate is used commercially in fertilizers rich in nitrogen. [10]


Ammonium nitrate fertilizer


Ammonium nitrate is used in fertilizers. It is used in fertilizers because of its solubility in water, and it makes soil rich in nitrogen. Ammonium nitrate has a NPK rating of 34-0-0 (34% nitrogen). Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is advantageous because it is more stable than other fertilizers and does not lose nitrogen quickly into the air.[11]


Ammonium nitrate acts as an oxidizing agent when combined with fuel oil. Together they are called ANFO (ammonium nitrate fuel oil). Diesel, kerosene, or coal dust can be used as fuel oil. AFNO is a tertiary explosive. Tertiary explosives cannot be detonated by shock. Instead, they are detonated by an explosive booster or secondary explosive.[12] AFNO is used in the mining industry and avalanche hazard mitigation.[13]


Lunch meat that contains sodium nitrite

In Food

Some food companies add nitrates to cured meats like bacon, salami, and sausage. Nitrates in cured meats are used to extend their expiration date and give them a more attractive color. When nitrates are consumed, they react with bacteria in the mouth or with saliva enzymes to form nitrites. Nitrites form nitrosamines in the stomach.[14] Nitrosamines are carcinogenic, meaning they cause cancer, to animals and suggests that they may also be carcinogenic to humans as well.[15]


  1. Author unknown. Nitrate “Wikipedia. Web. Last modified on May 5, 2017.
  2. Author unknown Common Compounds of Nitrate NO3- Endmemo. Web. Accessed on may 14, 2017.
  3. Unknown author. FERRIC NITRATE Pubchem. Web. Accessed on May 14, 2017.
  4. Author unknown. Iron(III) nitrate Wikipedia. Web. Last edited on December 18, 2017.
  5. Vivier, Virginia. Acid Etching Metal Jewelry, Part 4a Jewelry Making Journal. Web. Accessed on May 5, 2017.
  6. author unknown. Copper(II) nitrate Wikipedia. Web. Last modified on February 22, 2017.
  7. Author unknown. SILVER NITRATE PubChem. Web. Accessed on May 16, 2017.
  8. unknown author. Silver Nitrate Wikipedia. Web. Last modified on May 16, 2017.
  9. unknown author. AMMONIUM NITRATE Pubchem. Web. Accessed on May 21, 2017.
  10. unknown author. Ammonium nitrate Wikipedia. Web. Last modified on April 27, 2017.
  11. unknown author. Ammonium nitrate Wikipedia. Web. Last modified on April 27, 2017.
  12. unknown author. Explosive material Wikipedia. Web. Last modified on May 8, 2017
  13. unknown author. ANFO Wikipedia. Web. Last modified on April 30, 2017.
  14. CORLEONE, JILL. List of Foods That Have Sodium Nitrate Web. Last Updated: May 04, 2016
  15. Author unknown. Nitrosamine Wikipedia. Web. Last modified on April 24, 2017.