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Suzanne Heikkila, age 11, of Iron River, Wisconsin, for her question:

What substances are used to make ammonia?

You would expect this powerful stuff to be made from mighty powerful ingredients. But the world of chemistry is famous for uniting mild ingredients to form strong substances. In this case, the mild ingredients are hydrogen and nitrogen, the gentle gas that makes up most of the air. Ammonia is a chemical compound, made from atoms combined in molecule packages. A molecule of ammonia is a package of one nitrogen atom and three atoms of hydrogen. The ammonia molecules form a light gas, with a sharp breathtaking odor.

Ammonia is a strong alkaline chemical that readily mixes with water. In this state it is called ammonium hydroxide, a fancy name meaning ammonia water. It attacks grease and its strong akaline quality neutralizes acids. Liquid ammonia is a fine glass polisher and household cleaner. But its strong chemical qualities make it rather hard on the skin. Hence it is wise to protect your busy hands with rubber gloves.

 

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