Nitrogen Properties, usage, isotopes, methods of production and applications

Nitrogen properties

Nitrogen properties, discovery, usage, isotopes, methods of production, applications, interesting facts, FAQs, Thermal, physical, chemical and magnetic properties

Nitrogen – An Essential Element for Modern Applications

Introduction: Welcome to this educational guide on nitrogen, a fundamental element that plays a vital role in various aspects of our daily lives. In this article, we will explore the key features and properties of nitrogen, including its atomic number, symbol, atomic weight, and valency. So, let’s dive into the fascinating world of nitrogen!

Nitrogen: Nitrogen is a chemical element with the symbol N and atomic number 7. It is a non-metal and belongs to Group 15 of the periodic table. Nitrogen is one of the essential building blocks of life, making up about 78% of Earth’s atmosphere. It is widely found in the form of nitrogen gas (N₂), which is colorless, odorless, and tasteless.

Atomic Number: 7 Symbol: N Atomic Weight: 14.00674 u Valency: Nitrogen typically exhibits a valency of 3 or 5.

Table: Properties of Nitrogen

Atomic NumberSymbolAtomic Weight (u)Valency
7N14.006743, 5
Table: Properties of Nitrogen

Note: The atomic weight mentioned in the table is an average atomic mass based on the isotopic composition of nitrogen.

Conclusion: Nitrogen, with its atomic number 7 and symbol N, is a crucial element known for its presence in Earth’s atmosphere and its various applications in industries, agriculture, and biological systems. Its versatile valency of 3 or 5 allows it to form a wide range of compounds, making it essential for life as we know it. Understanding the properties and characteristics of nitrogen provides a foundation for further exploration of its role in various scientific and technological fields.

Nitrogen: Discovery, Usage, and Key Points

In addition to understanding the properties and characteristics of nitrogen, it is also essential to explore its discovery and diverse applications. This section will provide a brief overview of the discovery of nitrogen and its subsequent usage across various industries and fields. Let’s delve into the intriguing history and practical applications of this remarkable element.


Nitrogen was first discovered in the late 18th century by Scottish physician and chemist Daniel Rutherford in 1772. He conducted experiments to isolate a component of air that did not support combustion or life-sustaining processes. Rutherford referred to this newly discovered substance as “noxious air” or “phlogisticated air.” Later, in 1790, French chemist Antoine Lavoisier named it “azote,” meaning “without life” due to its inability to support life or combustion.

Nitrogen Properties
Nitrogen was first discovered in 1772 by Daniel Rutherford

Modern Usage:

  1. Industrial Applications:
    • Nitrogen gas is widely used in industries such as electronics, food processing, and pharmaceuticals. It serves as an inert gas to prevent oxidation, degradation, and contamination during manufacturing and storage processes.
    • The production of ammonia (NH₃) through the Haber-Bosch process is a significant industrial application of nitrogen. Ammonia is used as a precursor for fertilizers, explosives, and various chemical compounds.
    • Nitrogen gas is employed in the preservation and packaging of perishable food items, helping to extend their shelf life by preventing spoilage.
  2. Agriculture:
    • Nitrogen is a vital nutrient for plant growth and is often a key component in fertilizers. It plays a crucial role in enhancing crop yields and improving the quality of agricultural products.
    • Leguminous plants have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, allowing them to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form for plants. This process helps enrich the soil with nitrogen and reduces the reliance on synthetic fertilizers.
  3. Medicine and Healthcare:
    • Nitrogen finds application in medical procedures, such as cryotherapy, where extremely low temperatures are used to remove abnormal tissues or lesions.
    • Liquid nitrogen is used in dermatology for the removal of warts, moles, and skin tags through cryosurgery.
    • Nitrous oxide (N₂O), also known as laughing gas, is used as an anesthetic during dental procedures and as a recreational inhalant.

Important Points to Remember about Discovery and Usage of Nitrogen:

Discovered by Daniel Rutherford in 1772Widely used in industries like electronics, food processing, and pharmaceuticals
Named “azote” by Antoine LavoisierEssential component in the production of ammonia and fertilizers
Does not support combustion or life-sustaining processesPromotes plant growth and enhances crop yields
Used in medical procedures such as cryotherapy and cryosurgery
Important Points to Remember about Discovery and Usage of Nitrogen

Nitrogen Properties and Key Points

To fully comprehend the significance of nitrogen, it is crucial to explore its properties. This section will provide a brief overview of the key properties of nitrogen, shedding light on its physical and chemical characteristics. Understanding these properties enables us to appreciate the diverse applications and behavior of nitrogen in various fields. Let’s delve into the fundamental properties of this remarkable element.

Properties of Nitrogen:

  1. Physical Properties:
    • Nitrogen exists as a diatomic molecule, represented as N₂, with a molecular weight of approximately 28 atomic mass units.
    • It is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas at room temperature and atmospheric pressure.
    • Nitrogen gas has a low density and is lighter than air, making it an essential component of the Earth’s atmosphere.
  2. Chemical Properties:
    • Nitrogen is a non-metal and occupies Group 15 (Group V) of the periodic table.
    • It has a total of seven electrons, arranged in two energy levels (K and L) around its nucleus.
    • Nitrogen possesses a high electronegativity, making it less likely to form positive ions and more inclined to form covalent bonds.
    • Nitrogen typically exhibits a valency of 3 or 5, allowing it to form compounds with a wide range of elements.
  3. Reactivity:
    • Nitrogen gas is relatively unreactive under normal conditions, making it inert. This property is primarily due to the strong triple bond between nitrogen atoms in the N₂ molecule.
    • However, at high temperatures and pressures or in the presence of catalysts, nitrogen can react with certain elements to form various compounds, such as ammonia (NH₃) and nitric acid (HNO₃).
  4. Abundance and Importance:
    • Nitrogen is the most abundant element in Earth’s atmosphere, constituting approximately 78% of the air we breathe.
    • It is an essential nutrient for living organisms and plays a vital role in the structure of proteins and nucleic acids.
    • Nitrogen is crucial for the growth and development of plants, making it a key component of fertilizers used in agriculture.

Important Points to Remember about Properties of Nitrogen:

Physical PropertiesChemical Properties
Diatomic molecule (N₂)Non-metal, Group 15
Colorless, odorless, and tasteless gasHigh electronegativity
Lighter than air, low densityValency of 3 or 5
Relatively unreactive under normal conditions
Important Points to Remember about Properties of Nitrogen
ReactivityAbundance and Importance
Inert under normal conditionsMost abundant element in Earth’s atmosphere (78%)
Can react under high temperatures/pressuresEssential nutrient for living organisms and plants
Forms compounds like ammonia and nitric acidCrucial role in protein and nucleic acid structure
Important Points to Remember about Properties of Nitrogen

Nitrogen Isotopes and Compounds – Exploring Variations and Applications

In addition to understanding the properties and usage of nitrogen, it is essential to explore its isotopes and compounds. This section provides a brief overview of the isotopes of nitrogen and some of the commonly encountered nitrogen compounds. By delving into these aspects, we gain a deeper understanding of the versatility and significance of nitrogen in various scientific and industrial applications.

Isotopes of Nitrogen:

Nitrogen has two stable isotopes, nitrogen-14 (^14N) and nitrogen-15 (^15N). These isotopes have the same number of protons but differ in the number of neutrons in their nuclei. Nitrogen-14 is the most abundant and accounts for approximately 99.6% of naturally occurring nitrogen. Nitrogen-15 is a less abundant, stable isotope but is still important in various scientific fields, including research related to environmental studies, agricultural processes, and nitrogen cycling in ecosystems.

Nitrogen Compounds:

  1. Ammonia (NH₃): Ammonia is a compound consisting of one nitrogen atom bonded with three hydrogen atoms. It is widely used in the production of fertilizers and various chemical products. Ammonia has a pungent odor and is highly soluble in water. It serves as a crucial source of nitrogen for plants and plays a vital role in promoting agricultural productivity.
  2. Nitric Oxide (NO): Nitric oxide is a colorless gas composed of one nitrogen atom and one oxygen atom. It is an important signaling molecule in the human body, participating in various physiological processes. Nitric oxide is also involved in the regulation of blood pressure and immune responses. Additionally, it plays a role in atmospheric chemistry and air pollution.
  3. Nitrous Oxide (N₂O): Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, is a compound composed of two nitrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. It is used as an anesthetic in dentistry and surgery. Nitrous oxide also finds application in the food industry as a propellant in aerosol whipped creams and as a greenhouse gas in the Earth’s atmosphere.
  4. Nitric Acid (HNO₃): Nitric acid is a highly corrosive liquid that contains one nitrogen atom, three oxygen atoms, and one hydrogen atom. It is a strong oxidizing agent and is widely used in the production of fertilizers, explosives, and various organic and inorganic compounds. Nitric acid is also utilized in metal etching and cleaning processes.

Thermal, Physical, Chemical, and Magnetic Properties of Nitrogen

To gain a comprehensive understanding of nitrogen, it is crucial to explore its thermal, physical, chemical, and magnetic properties. This section provides a brief overview of these key properties, shedding light on nitrogen’s behavior under various conditions. Understanding these properties helps us grasp the fundamental characteristics and applications of this versatile element.

Thermal Properties:

  1. Melting and Boiling Points:
    • Nitrogen has a relatively low melting point of -210.01°C (-346.02°F), making it exist as a gas at room temperature.
    • The boiling point of nitrogen is -195.79°C (-320.42°F), which is significantly lower than that of many other elements.
  2. Heat of Vaporization:
    • Nitrogen has a high heat of vaporization, requiring a considerable amount of energy to change from a liquid to a gas phase.

Physical Properties:

  1. State at Standard Conditions:
    • Nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas at standard conditions (room temperature and atmospheric pressure).
    • It is diatomic, meaning it exists as a molecule containing two nitrogen atoms (N₂).
  2. Density:
    • Nitrogen gas has a lower density than air, making it lighter. The density of nitrogen at standard conditions is approximately 1.165 kg/m³.

Chemical Properties:

  1. Reactivity:
    • Nitrogen is relatively unreactive under normal conditions due to the strong triple bond between nitrogen atoms in the N₂ molecule.
    • It does not readily react with most substances, making it an inert gas.
  2. Combustibility:
    • Nitrogen itself is non-combustible and does not support combustion.
    • However, nitrogen can participate in combustion indirectly by displacing oxygen, preventing other substances from burning.
  3. Compound Formation:
    • Nitrogen can form various compounds with other elements, such as ammonia (NH₃), nitric oxide (NO), and nitric acid (HNO₃), among others.
    • Nitrogen compounds are essential in many industrial processes and biological systems.

Magnetic Properties:

  1. Paramagnetic Nature:
    • Nitrogen is paramagnetic, meaning it is weakly attracted to a magnetic field.
    • This property arises due to the presence of unpaired electrons in nitrogen’s electron configuration.

Methods of Production and Applications of Nitrogen

Production Methods:

Nitrogen, despite its abundance in the Earth’s atmosphere, often needs to be produced or separated for specific applications. Several methods are employed to generate nitrogen in various forms. Here are some commonly used methods:

  1. Fractional Distillation of Liquid Air:
    • Nitrogen can be obtained by fractional distillation of liquid air. Since nitrogen has a lower boiling point (-195.79°C) compared to oxygen (-183.0°C), it can be separated through a process known as cryogenic distillation.
  2. Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA):
    • PSA is a technique used to separate nitrogen from other gases in the air based on differences in their adsorption properties. The process involves passing air through a material (adsorbent) that selectively adsorbs oxygen, allowing nitrogen to pass through.
  3. Membrane Separation:
    • Membrane separation utilizes semi-permeable membranes that selectively permeate nitrogen while blocking other gases. By applying pressure or utilizing a concentration gradient, nitrogen can be separated from air or other gas mixtures.

Applications of Nitrogen:

Nitrogen finds extensive applications across various industries and scientific fields due to its unique properties. Here are some notable applications:

  1. Inert Atmosphere:
    • Nitrogen’s inert nature makes it ideal for creating controlled environments. It is widely used in industries such as electronics, pharmaceuticals, and food packaging to displace oxygen and prevent oxidation, degradation, and spoilage of sensitive materials.
  2. Ammonia Production:
    • Nitrogen is a crucial component in the production of ammonia (NH₃) through the Haber-Bosch process. Ammonia is used as a raw material for fertilizers, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.
  3. Food and Beverage Industry:
    • Nitrogen gas is utilized in the food and beverage industry for various applications. It is used for food preservation and packaging to extend shelf life, prevent spoilage, and maintain product freshness.
  4. Electronics and Semiconductors:
    • Nitrogen is employed in the electronics and semiconductor industry for processes such as purging, cooling, and preventing oxidation during manufacturing, assembly, and storage of sensitive electronic components.
  5. Laser Cutting and Welding:
    • Nitrogen gas is used in laser cutting and welding processes to create an inert atmosphere, prevent oxidation, and enhance the quality of the final product.
  6. Chemical Industry:
    • Nitrogen is an essential reactant or process gas in various chemical reactions. It is used in the synthesis of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, explosives, and as a blanketing gas to prevent the degradation of sensitive substances.
  7. Fire Suppression:
    • Nitrogen gas is employed in fire suppression systems as it can displace oxygen, effectively extinguishing fires without leaving residues or damaging sensitive equipment.
  8. Agriculture:
    • Nitrogen fertilizers, such as ammonium nitrate or urea, are widely used in agriculture to provide essential nutrients for plant growth, improve crop yields, and enhance soil fertility.

Top 10 Countries in Nitrogen Production, Extraction, and Resource Capacity

RankCountryProduction (in million metric tons)Extraction (in million metric tons)Resource Capacity (in million metric tons)
1United States19.829.136.5
10United Kingdom3.54.76.9
Top 10 Countries in Nitrogen Production, Extraction, and Resource Capacity

Please note that the values presented in the table are approximate and may vary based on different data sources and timeframes.

10 interesting facts about Nitrogen Properties:

  1. Abundant Gas: Nitrogen is the most abundant gas in Earth’s atmosphere, accounting for about 78% of the air we breathe.
  2. Inert Nature: Nitrogen gas is chemically unreactive under normal conditions. This inertness makes it useful for applications where the presence of oxygen can be detrimental, such as preserving perishable goods or creating controlled environments for sensitive materials.
  3. Essential for Life: Nitrogen is an essential element for all living organisms. It is a crucial component of amino acids, proteins, and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), which are the building blocks of life.
  4. Haber-Bosch Process: The Haber-Bosch process, developed in the early 20th century, revolutionized agriculture by enabling the large-scale production of ammonia (NH₃) from nitrogen and hydrogen gases. This process is used to produce nitrogen-based fertilizers that have significantly increased crop yields worldwide.
  5. Nitrogen Fixation: Nitrogen gas in the atmosphere is relatively inert and cannot be directly used by most organisms. However, certain bacteria and cyanobacteria have the ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen into usable forms through a process called nitrogen fixation. This process plays a crucial role in replenishing soil nitrogen and supporting plant growth.
  6. Laughing Gas: Nitrous oxide (N₂O), also known as laughing gas, is a nitrogen compound used as an anesthetic in dentistry and surgery. It is called “laughing gas” due to the euphoric effects it can produce when inhaled in controlled doses.
  7. Role in Fire Suppression: Nitrogen gas is utilized in fire suppression systems. By displacing oxygen, nitrogen can prevent the combustion process, effectively extinguishing fires without leaving residue or causing additional damage.
  8. Liquid Nitrogen: Nitrogen has a low boiling point of -195.79°C (-320.42°F) and can be liquefied at extremely low temperatures. Liquid nitrogen is commonly used for cryogenic storage, transportation of frozen food, and in scientific research for preserving biological samples and conducting experiments at ultra-low temperatures.
  9. Nitrogen Narcosis: Deep-sea divers can experience a condition called nitrogen narcosis, also known as “raptures of the deep.” When diving at significant depths, the increased pressure can cause nitrogen to dissolve in body tissues, leading to symptoms similar to intoxication.
  10. Nitrogen in Airbags: The rapid deployment of airbags in automobiles relies on the reaction between sodium azide (NaN₃) and potassium nitrate (KNO₃) to generate nitrogen gas. The generated nitrogen inflates the airbag, providing cushioning and protection during a collision.

10 common but interesting frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Nitrogen Properties:

What is nitrogen used for?

Nitrogen is used in a wide range of applications, including as a component in fertilizers for agricultural purposes, in the production of ammonia for various industries, as an inert gas for food preservation and packaging, in electronics manufacturing, as a coolant in cryogenics, and in the production of various chemicals.

Can we breathe pure nitrogen?

Breathing pure nitrogen can be dangerous and even deadly. Nitrogen gas lacks oxygen, which our bodies need to survive. Inhaling pure nitrogen can lead to asphyxiation since it displaces the oxygen present in the air.

Is nitrogen flammable or explosive?

Nitrogen gas itself is not flammable or explosive. It is chemically inert and does not readily support combustion. However, nitrogen can contribute to fire hazards by displacing oxygen, potentially causing oxygen-deprived environments where other combustible materials can burn more intensely.

What is the nitrogen cycle?

The nitrogen cycle is the natural process by which nitrogen moves through different forms and locations in the environment. It involves nitrogen fixation (conversion of atmospheric nitrogen into usable forms), nitrification (conversion of ammonia into nitrates by bacteria), assimilation (uptake of nitrogen by plants), and denitrification (conversion of nitrates back into atmospheric nitrogen).

Why is nitrogen important in fertilizers?

Nitrogen is a vital nutrient for plant growth and is often a limiting factor in crop productivity. Nitrogen fertilizers provide plants with an accessible source of nitrogen, promoting healthy growth, higher crop yields, and improved agricultural productivity.

Is nitrogen harmful to the environment?

While nitrogen is essential for life, excessive nitrogen in the environment can have detrimental effects. Nitrogen runoff from agricultural activities and wastewater can lead to water pollution, causing issues such as eutrophication and harmful algal blooms. Additionally, nitrogen oxides released from industrial processes contribute to air pollution and can contribute to the formation of smog and acid rain.

What is liquid nitrogen used for?

Liquid nitrogen, with its extremely low temperature of -195.79°C (-320.42°F), is used in various applications. It is employed in cryogenics for freezing and preserving biological samples, as a coolant in certain industrial processes, in the food industry for freezing and quick cooling, and in dermatology for cryotherapy treatments.

Is nitrogen a greenhouse gas?

Nitrogen gas (N₂) itself is not considered a greenhouse gas as it does not absorb infrared radiation. However, nitrogen compounds like nitrous oxide (N₂O) and nitrogen oxides (NOₓ) are greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change.

Can nitrogen cause asphyxiation?

Yes, nitrogen can cause asphyxiation. In environments where nitrogen concentration increases, it can displace the oxygen in the air, leading to oxygen deprivation and potential asphyxiation if inhaled in high concentrations.

Can nitrogen be obtained from the atmosphere?

Yes, nitrogen can be obtained from the atmosphere through various methods. The most common method is fractional distillation of liquid air, where nitrogen gas is separated from other gases by exploiting differences in their boiling points. Pressure swing adsorption and membrane separation are other techniques used to extract nitrogen from the air.

Free MCQs for GK and Exam preparations
Free MCQs for GK and Exam preparations

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