Microscale Gas Chemistry: 

Nitrogen Information

A. Appearance
     Nitrogen, N2, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that has very low solubility  in water.  Liquid nitrogen is colorless.  Interestingly, nitrogen molecules give the orange-red, blue-green, indigo and deep violet colors to the dawn sky.

B. Physical Properties of N2

Nitrogen, N2
Atomic mass:
28.013 g/mol
melting point
 -209.86 oC
boiling point
  -195.8 oC

C. History

     The discovery of nitrogen is generally credited to Daniel Rutherford in 1772.  Like Priestley, Rutherford did not recogize his substance as a new element — and, as with oxygen, Lavoisier did!  He named the element azote which means “without life.”  The name “nitrogen” was suggested by Jean-Antoine-Claude Chaptal in 1790 when it was recognized that it was one of the elements present in nitric acid.  The name is also based on the Greek word nitron which means “to form.”

D. Natural Abundance

     Nitrogen occurs chiefly in the atmosphere, where is constitutes 78% of 'air.'  The mass of the atmosphere is approximately 5 x 1018 kg, so there is a limitless supply of nitrogen.  Very little nitrogen is found in minerals or crustal rocks.

E. Industrial Production
      Nitrogen is obtained by the fractional distillation of air.

F. Industrial Uses

     Nitrogen is the second ranked industrial chemical in terms of commercial production, with over 20 billion kilograms produced per year in the USA.  Four other nitrogen-containing compounds, all originally produced from nitrogen, also appear in the Top 15.

     The main use of nitrogen is as an inert blanket in iron and steel industry as well as in related metallurgical and chemical activities where an inert atmosphere is required.  Another important, large scale use of nitrogen blankets is in the glass industry.  One third of the nitrogen produced is liquefied and used in that form as a refrigerant.  Liquid nitrogen is maintained at its normal boiling point, 77.2 K.  Rubbery or sticky substances cannot be machined or ground unless they are first frozen.  Freeze grinding is even used to make hamburger.  Liquid nitrogen is used to quick-freeze foods and to maintain refrigeration of frozen foods as they are transported over the highway.

G. Gas Density of N2
     The density of N2 is 1.145 g/L under the same conditions — or 97% as great as that of air.

H. Gas Solubility of N2
   At 0 °C nitrogen dissolves in water to the extent of 23.3 cm3 per liter water.

Return to Experiments