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10 Nitrogen Facts

Nitrogen In the Air You Breathe

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This is the glow given off by ionized nitrogen in a gas discharge tube.

This is the glow given off by ionized nitrogen in a gas discharge tube. The purplish glow seen around lightning strikes is the color of the ionized nitrogen in air.

Jurii, Creative Commons Image of solid, liquid, and gaseous nitrogen.

Image of solid, liquid, and gaseous nitrogen.

Jurii, Creative Commons

You breathe oxygen, yet air is mostly nitrogen. You need nitrogen to live and encounter it in the foods you eat and in many common chemicals. Here are some quick facts about this element. You can find detailed information about nitrogen on the nitrogen facts page.

  1. Nitrogen is odorless, tasteless, and colorless.

     

  2. Nitrogen gas (N2) makes up 78.1% of the volume of the Earth's air.

     

  3. Nitrogen is a nonmetal.

     

  4. Nitrogen gas is relatively inert, but soil bacteria can 'fix' nitrogen into a form that plants and animals can use to make amino acids and proteins.

     

  5. The French chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier named nitrogen azote, meaning without life.

     

  6. Nitrogen was sometimes referred to as 'burnt' or 'dephlogisticated' air, since air that no longer contains oxygen is almost all nitrogen. The other gases in air are present in much lower concentrations.

     

  7. Nitrogen compounds are found in foods, fertilizers, poisons, and explosives. Your body is 3% nitrogen by weight.

     

  8. Nitrogen is responsible for the orange-red, blue-green, blue-violet, and deep violet colors of the aurora.

     

  9. One way to prepare nitrogen gas is by liquefaction and fractional distillation from the atmosphere.

     

  10. Nitrogen has a valence of 3 or 5.
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