The Washington Post published an article on the risks, dangers and properties of ammonium nitrate – the chemical that was in all likelihood responsible for the catastrophic explosion in Beirut. It was a pleasure to be able to contribute some insights. Read the article here.
It is probably a natural thing that explosions of this size trigger conspiracy theories. From a nuclear detonation to the infamous “red mercury” – numerous “theories” float our social media channels.
This is interesting also from a historical perspective: When an explosion of ammonium nitrate for fertilizers of similar size blew up the BASF plant in Oppau in 1921 – just a few years after the end of World War 1 – there were theories floating in international media that secret weapon experiments were carried out with the possible involvement of Fritz Haber – the father of German gas warfare in the war but also Nobel Prize winner for inventing the Haber process to produce ammonia from nitrogen from the air. This ammonia was the precursor for the ammonium nitrate. It also shows the dual use dilemma of many chemicals.