Answer reviewed 26 February 2023
Making ammonium nitrate rocket fuel in the school lab is extremely hazardous and Science ASSIST strongly advises against conducting this activity and instead recommends the use of commercially available rocket kits and engines. To locate a supplier see School science suppliers.1
Ammonium nitrate is included in the Science List of recommended chemicals for science in Australian schools 2021,2 with use restricted for Year 11 and 12 students. It has applications to show endothermic reactions, as well as in a saturated solution for use as a salt bridge. Science ASSIST recommends substituting ammonium nitrate with less hazardous chemicals, for example:
- solubility of salts: use sodium or potassium nitrate;
- endothermic reactions: use sodium thiosulphate or potassium iodide.
Ammonium nitrate regulations
Ammonium nitrate is a chemical of high security concern and is a precursor chemical to the manufacture of explosives. Where it occurs in solid form or in concentrations above 45%, it is referred to as security sensitive ammonium nitrate (SSAN). Its use and availability are regulated by individual state and territory legislation.
Ammonium nitrate is not a banned chemical for schools. Some states permit SSAN in quantities up to 3 kg in schools where there is a curriculum requirement, however an end user declaration (EUD) and/or applying for exemption may be required before purchasing.
Solutions of ammonium nitrate are permitted in all jurisdictions. Schools in NSW, Victoria, WA and Qld do not require a licence to store up to 3 kg of ammonium nitrate. Schools in Tasmania can apply for an exemption for a licence to store up to 3kg of ammonium nitrate. Schools in South Australia and ACT require a licence to store any amount of solid ammonium nitrate.
See previous question about ammonium nitrate: Ammonium nitrate
See AIS: School science area security
References and further reading
1 Science ASSIST. (2023). School science suppliers. Retrieved from the Science ASSIST website. https://assist.asta.edu.au/resource/664/school-science-suppliers
2 Science ASSIST. (2021). List of recommended chemicals for science in Australian schools 2021, Retrieved from the Science ASSIST website, https://assist.asta.edu.au/resource/4669/list-recommended-chemicals-scie...
Tenchov, R. (2022, November 23) Ammonium nitrate: making it safer today for a better tomorrow, Retrieved from the CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society website: https://www.cas.org/resources/cas-insights/safety/ammonium-nitrate-makin... ( Scroll down to download their insight report Ammonium Nitrate Explosions: Lessons Learned.
Work Safe Queensland. (nd) ‘Ammonium nitrate’, Retrieved (26 February 2023) from the Work Safe Queensland website: https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/safety-and-prevention/hazards/hazardous-...