How are bombs made out of chemical fertilizers?

If media reports are to be believed, terrorists make some of their bombs out of chemical fertilizer. Do they really? How? One wonders.
Forget the ‘how’ part of the question, since bomb-making is the last thing one would risk to describe at length. Only the underlying principle can be summerised in a few words. The major ingredient of fertilizer is ammonium nitrate. It is somewhat unstable chemical that would degrade violently with a bit of encouragement. In fact, nitric acid which is needed to make explosive like TNT (trinitrotoluene) is derived from oxidised ammonia. Many fertilizer bombs made by terrorists also contain extra sources of carbohydrates to help stoke up the explosive power of the fertilizer, In addition, diesel is used, besides phosphorus compounds that react to simple friction. Packing all these materials into a container that will compress them on impact can create enough friction to cause the phosphorus to ignite. Alternatively, a detonating spark can be generated with battery linked to a timer device.

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