Tag: Molecular Orbital

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.