Ammonium chloride consists of white crystals that are also available in more or less worked up rods or lumps. It is a combination of two necessary elements for plant growth — nitrogen and chlorine. This acidic salt is also used in many household products, including polishes and cleaners. In summary, the salt is functional to industry and human life.
Found at sites of volcanic activity, the compound occurs naturally in mineralogical form and bears the name sal ammoniac. The compound is formed from a reaction between an ammonia-based alkaline and an acid; this produces a pH-neutral salt, although solutions of ammonium chloride are in fact slightly acidic.
The salt can be manufactured industrially directly from ammonia and hydrochloric acid but that is often not the most favourable from an economic point of view. Ammonium chloride is obtained as a by-product in different chemical processes, particularly from the Solvay process for production of sodium carbonate from sodium chloride, ammonia, carbon dioxide and water. Another easily available raw material is ammonium sulfate.
The main global producer is Japan where 220 000 tons were manufactured in 1993, mainly as a by-product. Most of it was used as fertilizer in rice cultivation. Production for this usage is pretty exclusive for Japan. More pure ammonium chloride is prepared for more specific fields of application, including making fireworks and pyrotechnics, dyeing textiles and as a flux in metalwork.
Ammonium chloride increased crop yields by up to 40 percent over crops with no chloride added, according to a multi-year study reported on by W. E. Thompson of the Oklahoma State University Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. The chloride also significantly increased the time it took for nitrogen to disappear from unlimed soil and is also being studied for disease prevention.
A large number of personal care products contain ammonium chloride. These products include shampoos, body washes, hair color and liquid hand soaps. Cleansers with ammonia-based phosphates for cleaning may also contain ammonium chloride to help create lather and add viscosity to the liquid.
Additionally, ammonium chloride is an acidic compound that is used to treat cases of low chlorides in the blood or in cases where the body is too alkaline due to vomiting, diuretics or some stomach disorders.
Ammonium chloride tastes salty and is a little cooling. This makes it useful in food; above all it is popular in sweets (salt liquorice).