Thermal stability and kinetics of decomposition of ammonium nitrate in the presence of pyrite

R. Gunawan, Dongke Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


The interaction between ammonium nitrate based industrial explosives and pyrite-rich minerals in mining operations can lead to the occurrence of spontaneous explosion of the explosives. In an effort to provide a scientific basis for safe applications of industrial explosives in reactive mining grounds containing pyrite, ammonium nitrate decomposition, with and without the presence of pyrite, was studied using a simultaneous Differential Scanning Calorimetry and Thermogravimetric Analyser (DSC–TGA) and a gas-sealed isothermal reactor, respectively. The activation energy and the pre-exponential factor of ammonium nitrate decomposition were determined to be 102.6 kJ mol−1 and 4.55 × 107 s−1 without the presence of pyrite and 101.8 kJ mol−1 and 2.57 × 109 s−1 with the presence of pyrite. The kinetics of ammonium nitrate decomposition was then used to calculate the critical temperatures for ammonium nitrate decomposition with and without the presence of pyrite, based on the Frank–Kamenetskii model of thermal explosion. It was shown that the presence of pyrite reduces the temperature for, and accelerates the rate of, decomposition of ammonium nitrate. It was further shown that pyrite can significantly reduce the critical temperature of ammonium nitrate decomposition, causing undesired premature detonation of the explosives. The critical temperature also decreases with increasing diameter of the blast holes charged with the explosive. The concept of using the critical temperature as indication of the thermal stability of the explosives to evaluate the risk of spontaneous explosion was verified in the gas-sealed isothermal reactor experiments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-758
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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