Ammonium carbonate

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A white powder that smells strongly of ammonia. Ammonium carbonate is a double salt of Ammonium carbamate and Ammonium bicarbonate. Because it was historically prepared by the destructive distillation of the antlers from harts (red deer), ammonium carbonate is commonly called hartshorn. In air, it slowly decomposes to form ammonia and carbon dioxide. Ammonium carbonate is used in smelling salts, baking powder, fire extinguishers, ammonium casein glue, ceramics, and textile dyeing. It is also used as an aqueous neutralization/alkalization agent for paper (AIC Book and Paper catalog). Ammonium carbonate is also used in fire extinguishers, ceramics, photographic developing, washing wool, mordanting textiles, and coloring metals.

Synonyms and Related Terms

hartshorn; salt of hartshorn; spirit of hartshorn; volatile alkali; carbonate of ammonia; smelling salts; crystal ammonia; ammonium sesquicarbonate; sal volatile; rock ammonia; spiritus salis urinae

Chemical structure

Ammonium carbonate.jpg


  • Noncombustible.
  • Unstable in air evolving ammonia and carbon dioxide.
  • Inhalation and skin contact causes irritation.
  • Harmful if swallowed.
  • Fisher Scientific: SDS

Physical and Chemical Properties

Soluble in water. Partially soluble in ethanol.

Composition (NH4)HCO3-(NH4)CO2NH2
CAS 506-87-6
Melting Point 58
Molecular Weight mol. wt. = 96.09
Boiling Point 60

Resources and Citations

  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 57
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Susan E. Schur, Conservation Terminology: A review of Past & Current Nomenclature of Materials, Technology and Conservation, Spring (p.34-39); Summer (p.35-38); Fall (p.25-36), 1985
  • Book and Paper Group, Paper Conservation Catalog, AIC, 1984, 1989
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 534
  • External source or communication Comment: Submitted information from Budga Goran