Tag: Nitrogen

Pique the Geek 20120826: Nitrogen, Extremely Versatile

Last time we talked about the unusual properties of elemental nitrogen mostly and how stable it is.  We only touched on a little of the fascinating and extremely complex chemistry of nitrogen, ONCE we can get it in a form other than the incredibly stable elemental form.

This time we shall remedy this, although entire graduate level texts have been written on the subject.  Tonight we shall take a brief survey of the impact that nitrogen has on living organisms, industry, and a few other areas.  We shall attempt to do this by looking at various oxidation states, and nitrogen has more than any other element.

The basic concept is that atoms can either donate or accept electrons from other atoms.  When an atom donates electrons, it is oxidized, and when it accepts electrons it is reduced.  Thus, chlorine bleach works because hypochlorite ion is a strong oxidizing agent and breaks up large, colored molecules to smaller, colorless ones.

Pique the Geek 20120819: Nitrogen, without Life?

I took a week off from blogging last week for a number of reasons.  One was that I was having trouble getting my mind around topics.  Another was being in sort of a strange set of moods that have made concentration rather difficult.  Yet again, and probably the root cause of the other two is either spending large amounts of time with someone (no time to write) or no time at all (no motivation to write).  In any event, I think that I have some balance back.

I got tired of writing about carbon so we shall move on to nitrogen.  With an atomic number (Z) of 7, it is the element after carbon.  Nitrogen is another of the few elements that ordinary people encounter on a daily basis, because it comprises around 78% of the atmosphere of the earth.

There are two stable isotopes of nitrogen, the very common 14N (99.64%), the rest being 15N.  Both of these isotopes are formed in larger stars by stellar nucleosynthesis.  Nitrogen is peculiar in that it is one of only five nucleides that are stable with both an odd number of protons and neutrons.  It is really unusual in that 14N is by far the most common isotope of nitrogen.

Pique the Geek 20110508: Nitrogen, Common and Essential

Everyone is exposed to elemental nitrogen every day.  Since it makes up about 78% of the atmosphere, it is impossible to avoid.  It is nontoxic, so being impossible to avoid is not in this case a problem.

Actually, it is good thing that nitrogen comprises that much of the atmosphere.  If the atmosphere were much richer in oxygen than it is (around 21%, the rest carbon dioxide and a few others), it would be impossible to fight fires.  More on that later.

In addition to being an inert diluent to oxygen in the atmosphere, nitrogen is also essential for life for many reasons, and we shall examine some of them in a bit.  It is also an essential building block for many important industrial materials and for fertilizers for plants.  Come with us after the fold and we shall examine this important element.