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Unlocking the Secrets of Ammonium Bicarbonate: Properties Uses and Safety

Ammonium Bicarbonate: Chemical Formula, Identification, and Uses

Ammonium Bicarbonate is a chemical compound commonly used in the food industry as a leavening agent. It’s also utilized in the production of specific plastics, foams, and pharmaceuticals.

1) Ammonium Bicarbonate Chemical Formula

The chemical formula for Ammonium Bicarbonate is (NH4)HCO3. This compound comprises ammonium ions (NH4+) and bicarbonate ions (HCO3), which combine to form a white crystalline powder.

When dissolved in water, Ammonium Bicarbonate decomposes into carbon dioxide, water, and ammonia. This property makes it an ideal leavening agent in baked goods like cookies and crackers.

2) Ammonium Bicarbonate Identification

  • CAS Number: 1066-33-7
  • PubChem CID: 14013
  • ChemSpider ID: 12957
  • EC Number: 213-911-5
  • UN Number: 3077
  • RTECS Number: BO8600000

3) Ammonium Bicarbonate Composition and Synthesis

Ammonium Bicarbonate is synthesized by reacting ammonia (NH3) with carbon dioxide (CO2). The reaction equation is as follows:

NH3 + CO2 + H2O → (NH4)HCO3

Historically, Ammonium Bicarbonate was also obtained from animal urine. This method involved fermenting urine to release ammonia, which then reacted with carbon dioxide to form Ammonium Bicarbonate. However, due to health and safety concerns, as well as sourcing issues, this method is no longer used.

Currently, the primary production method for Ammonium Bicarbonate is synthetic. Ammonia gas and carbon dioxide gas are combined in a reactor vessel, forming a solution of Ammonium Bicarbonate. This solution is purified and dried into the solid crystalline form of Ammonium Bicarbonate.

4) Properties and Characteristics of Ammonium Bicarbonate

Physical Properties:

  • Appearance: White crystalline powder
  • Taste: Slightly bitter
  • Density: 1.58 g/cm3
  • Melting Point: 41.9 °C

In its solid form, Ammonium Bicarbonate is relatively stable and doesn’t decompose easily.

Other Properties:

  • Color: White
  • Odor: No distinct odor
  • pH: 7.8 in aqueous solution (mildly acidic)
  • Solubility: Highly soluble in water (22.8 g/100 ml at 25 °C), soluble in alcohols, slightly soluble in acetone
  • State of Matter: Solid at room temperature and pressure, but can easily volatilize and decompose into ammonia, carbon dioxide, and water when heated.

5) Uses of Ammonium Bicarbonate

Food Industry:

Ammonium Bicarbonate is a widely used leavening agent for cookies, crackers, and other baked goods. It reacts with moisture and heat to release carbon dioxide gas, causing dough or batter to rise and produce a light and fluffy texture. It’s an alternative to baking soda because of its unique solubility and relative lack of flavor.

Other Uses:

  • Production of Ceramics, Plastics, Dyes, and Pigments: Used as a catalyst for specific chemical reactions and as a blowing agent to produce foam products.
  • Scale Removal in Boilers: Dissolves and removes mineral deposits that accumulate on boiler surfaces.
  • Composting: A source of nitrogen that helps speed up the breakdown of organic material and improve compost quality.
  • Pharmaceutical Applications: Used as a buffer to regulate pH, an excipient in tablet and capsule manufacturing, and an active ingredient in certain medications.

6) Safety of Ammonium Bicarbonate

Ammonium Bicarbonate is considered relatively safe when used appropriately. However, ingestion, inhalation, or skin or eye contact can be harmful.


Ingestion can cause irritation to the digestive tract, leading to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.


Inhalation can cause respiratory irritation and potentially lead to respiratory failure. Prolonged or repeated exposure to high levels of Ammonium Bicarbonate dust can damage the lungs.

Skin Contact:

Ammonium Bicarbonate can irritate the skin, causing redness, itching, and rashes. Prolonged exposure can lead to dermatitis.

Eye Contact:

Contact with the eyes can cause irritation and redness. Promptly flushing with water is necessary to prevent more serious eye damage.


Ammonium Bicarbonate is a widely used chemical compound employed in various applications such as food, ceramics, plastics, and pharmaceuticals. It’s synthesized by reacting ammonia gas and carbon dioxide gas and is commonly used as a leavening agent in baking.

While considered relatively safe, exposure to Ammonium Bicarbonate by ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact can lead to irritation and other health effects. Therefore, handling and using this compound with care and caution is crucial.


  • Is Ammonium Bicarbonate safe to use in food? Yes, it is considered safe for consumption and approved for use in food by regulatory bodies like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Can Ammonium Bicarbonate be used to remove scales from boilers at home? No, the use of Ammonium Bicarbonate for this purpose should be performed only by professionals due to safety concerns.
  • Is Ammonium Bicarbonate hazardous to the environment? Ammonium Bicarbonate breaks down easily into harmless components in the environment and is not considered hazardous.

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