Nitrogen | Descriptions, Chemical and Physical Properties, Uses & Facts

Nitrogen | nitrogen

Nitrogen: Unveiling the Element of Life


Nitrogen is a fascinating element that plays a crucial role in various aspects of life on Earth. From its discovery to its diverse applications, nitrogen has captured the interest of scientists, industries, and curious minds alike. In this blog, we'll delve into the descriptions, history, chemical and physical properties, nitrogen generation, and the myriad uses of this essential element.


The discovery of nitrogen is often attributed to the Scottish physician and chemist Daniel Rutherford, who first isolated the gas in 1772. Rutherford called the newly discovered gas "noxious air" due to its ability to extinguish a flame and sustain neither life nor combustion. Antoine Lavoisier later named it "azote," meaning "without life" in Greek, highlighting its lack of ability to support life.

Chemical Formula, Atomic Number, and Mass:

Nitrogen is represented by the chemical symbol N and has the atomic number 7. Its atomic mass is approximately 14.01 atomic mass units (u). Nitrogen commonly exists as a diatomic molecule, N2, where two nitrogen atoms are covalently bonded together.

Chemical Properties:

Nitrogen is known for its relatively inert nature. It forms strong triple bonds between its atoms in the N2 molecule, making it unreactive under normal conditions. Despite its inertness, nitrogen can participate in various chemical reactions, particularly in the formation of nitrogen-containing compounds like ammonia (NH3), nitrites, and nitrates.

Physical Properties:

Nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas at room temperature and pressure. It has a melting point of -210 degrees Celsius (-346 degrees Fahrenheit) and a boiling point of -196 degrees Celsius (-321 degrees Fahrenheit). Nitrogen is lighter than air, and its density is approximately 0.00125 grams per cubic centimeter.

Nitrogen Generation:

There are various methods for generating nitrogen. One common technique is fractional distillation of liquid air, where nitrogen is separated from other gases based on differences in boiling points. Another method involves the pressure swing adsorption (PSA) process, which utilizes molecular sieves to selectively adsorb nitrogen over other gases.


1. Agriculture: Nitrogen is a vital component in fertilizers, promoting plant growth and enhancing crop yield.

2. Food Industry: It is used in food packaging to prevent spoilage by displacing oxygen, delaying oxidation and microbial growth.

3. Medical Applications: Liquid nitrogen is used in cryopreservation and medical procedures, such as dermatological treatments and the removal of warts and precancerous lesions.

4. Electronics: Nitrogen is crucial in the electronics industry, providing an inert atmosphere for manufacturing semiconductors and preventing oxidation.


  • The Earth's atmosphere is approximately 78% nitrogen.
  • Nitrogen gas is used in the production of ammonia, a key component in fertilizers.
  • Nitrogen compounds are essential components of amino acids, proteins, and DNA, making nitrogen an indispensable element for life.

Liquid nitrogen

Liquid nitrogen is the liquid form of nitrogen gas at an extremely low temperature. Here are some key points about liquid nitrogen:

1. Physical Properties:

  • Nitrogen becomes a liquid at temperatures below -196 degrees Celsius (-321 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • It is colorless and odorless.

2. Production:

  • Liquid nitrogen is produced by cryogenic distillation of air, where air is cooled and separated into its components, with nitrogen collected as a liquid.

3. Uses:

  • Cryogenic Freezing: It is commonly used in the food industry for cryogenic freezing of foods to preserve freshness and quality.
  • Medical Applications: Liquid nitrogen is used in medical procedures like cryotherapy to treat certain skin conditions.
  • Laboratory Use: It is utilized in laboratories for various applications, such as preserving biological samples and conducting experiments at low temperatures.
  • Cooling: Liquid nitrogen is employed for cooling purposes in certain industrial processes and equipment.

4. Hazards:

  • Extreme cold: Contact with liquid nitrogen can cause severe frostbite or cold burns.
  • Asphyxiation risk: Liquid nitrogen can displace oxygen, posing a risk of asphyxiation in confined spaces.

5. Transport and Storage:

  • Liquid nitrogen is transported and stored in specially designed containers, often referred to as Dewars, which are well-insulated to prevent rapid evaporation.

6. Boiling Point:

  • Liquid nitrogen has a boiling point of -196 degrees Celsius, and exposure to higher temperatures causes it to rapidly vaporize into nitrogen gas.

7. Expansion Ratio:

  • Liquid nitrogen expands tremendously when it vaporizes, with a volume expansion ratio of about 694:1. This property is harnessed in various applications.

8. Safety Precautions:

  • Proper personal protective equipment, such as gloves and goggles, should be worn when handling liquid nitrogen.
  • Adequate ventilation is necessary to prevent oxygen deficiency in enclosed spaces.
  • Understanding the properties and safety considerations associated with liquid nitrogen is crucial for its safe and effective use in various applications.


Nitrogen's journey from its discovery by Daniel Rutherford to its pivotal role in various industries highlights its significance in our lives. As we continue to explore and understand this versatile element, its applications are likely to expand, shaping the way we approach agriculture, industry, and scientific research. Nitrogen truly stands as an elemental force, quietly supporting life and innovation on Earth.

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