Looking for some nitrogen facts? Your search ends here. Just like carbon, nitrogen is another substance that is vital for life on planet Earth. Yes, no nitrogen means no life. It is as simple as that.

So, now you should have a faint idea of why nitrogen is one of the most important elements in world. In this article on nitrogen facts, we will learn about things like the discovery of nitrogen, its properties, about liquid nitrogen, nitrogen cycle and more.

But before we start with our list of nitrogen facts, let’s quickly go through the list of isotopes that the element has. Ready?

IsotopesType and AbundanceHalf-Life (HL)
10NRadioactive200(140)×10−24 s
11NRadioactive550(20)×10−24 s
12NRadioactive11.000(16) ms
13NRadioactive9.965(4) min
14NNatural, 99.6% availabilityStable, and hence, no HL
15NNatural, 0.4% availabilityStable, and hence, no HL
16NRadioactive7.13(2) s
17NRadioactive4.173(4) s
18NRadioactive619.2(19) ms
19NRadioactive336(3) ms
20NRadioactive136(3) ms
21NRadioactive84(7) ms
22NRadioactive23(3) ms
23NRadioactive13.9(14) ms
24NRadioactive<52 ns
25NRadioactive<260 ns

Nitrogen Facts: 1-5

1. Nitrogen discovery has a very interesting history. John Mayow – an English physician first first demonstrated that air is made up of different components. He proved this in 1674 by showing that only a part of the air is combustible. The remaining is not.

2. Close to a century later, Joseph Black – a chemist from Scotland managed to remove carbon dioxide and oxygen from air but still saw that some air remains. Black used burning phosphorus for removing oxygen.

3. Then came Daniel Rutherford – a doctoral student of Joseph Black. He carried out Black’s work in further details. Through a series of experiments, he managed to remove the oxygen and carbon dioxide from air completely.

4. He noticed that the leftover gas was not only NOT capable of combustion, but was also unable to support life.

5. Rutherford even observed that leftover gas was not soluble in alkali solutions and water.

Nitrogen Facts: 6-10

6. He didn’t know what he had discovered and called it as ‘Noxious Gas’. He reported his work in 1772.

7. Carl Scheele, a Swedish pharmacist also discovered nitrogen. He did that independently. Scheele removed oxygen from air using burning phosphorus as well as a mixture of iron and sulfur filings.

8. Even Scheele noted that the residual gas could not support combustion. He also noted that the volume of the residual gas was between 2/3rd and 3/4th of the original air volume.

9. It is thought that even Scheele carried out the experiments in 1772, but he published his work in 1777. As of today, Rutherford and Scheele are jointly credited for the discovery of nitrogen.

10. What’s interesting is that English scientist Henry Cavendish most-likely discovered nitrogen before Rutherford and Scheele. Unfortunately, he never published his work.

Nitrogen Facts: 11-15

11. References to Cavendish’s work can be found in the work (Experiments and Observations Made in and Before the Year 1772) of Joseph Priestley. Cavendish wrote to Priestley describing what Cavendish called ‘burnt air.’

12. Cavendish prepared the burnt air by passing air over red-hot charcoal repeatedly. After that, Cavendish bubbled the remaining gas through potassium hydroxide that possibly removed carbon dioxide.

Here is what Cavendish wrote:

“The specific gravity of this air was found to differ very little from that of common air; of the two, it seemed rather lighter. It extinguished flame, and rendered common air unfit for making bodies burn in the same manner as fixed air, but in a less degree, as a candle which burnt about 80″ in pure common air, and which went out immediately in common air mixed with 6/55 of fixed air, burnt about 26″ in common air mixed with the same portion of this burnt air.”

13. In 1790, Jean-Antoine-Claude Chaptal -a French Chemist – came up with the with the name ‘Nitrogen,’ because by then, it was already known that nitrogen was present in nitrates and nitric acid.

14. The name ‘Nitrogen’ was derived from two Greek words – nitron and genes. Nitron literally means ‘Niter’ and Genes means ‘forming’.

15. Later came Antoine Lavoisier, who was also a French Chemist. He came up with a different name called ‘Azote’ a Greek word for the meaning ‘asphyxiation’.

Nitrogen Facts: 16-20

16. The name Azote is currently used in many languages like Turkish, Russia and French. Even in English, the name is used for many compounds of Nitrogen like azo compounds, azides, hydrazine etc.

17. Nitrogen is the seventh element on the Periodic Table. It is represented by the symbol N. It belongs to Group 15.

18. The atomic weight of nitrogen is 14.0067. It has seven electrons, seven protons, and seven neutrons (in the most abundant isotope).

19. At normal room temperature and pressure, the element remains in gaseous state. It is a colorless and odorless gas. It is considered an inert gas.

20. Nitrogen has a melting point of 63.05 Kelvin or -210.1°C. The boiling point of nitrogen is 77.4 Kelvin or -195.8°C.

Nitrogen Facts: 21-25

21. The density of nitrogen at 20°C is 0.0012506 g/cm3.

22. The atomic radius of nitrogen is 65 pm, and its electronic configuration is 1s22s22p3.

23. The elemental structure of nitrogen is called hexagonal close-packed.

24. Scientists believe that Nitrogen is 7th most abundant element in this whole universe.

25. According to Los Alamos National Laboratory, 78% of the air on this planet is nothing but Nitrogen. In contrast, Mars’ atmosphere has only 2.6% Nitrogen.

Nitrogen Facts: 26-30

26. On Titan – largest moon of Saturn, 95% of the atmosphere is made of Nitrogen.

27. NASA says that nitrogen plays a very vital role in aurora formation that is observed in Antarctic and Arctic regions. Auroras are made when high-speed electrons from outer space come and collide with nitrogen and oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.

28. Nitrogen is present in every single living organism. It is present in our DNA and even in our RNA.

29. Nitrogen is required by our body for building amino acids!

30. In fact, 3.3% of human body is made of nitrogen. This makes it the fourth most abundant element in human body right after oxygen, carbon and hydrogen.

Nitrogen Facts: 31-35

31. There are various types of bacteria that are present on this Earth that are known for synthesizing nitrogen and converting it into more usable form using a specific type of enzyme for more higher and complex life forms.

32. Did you know that plants are capable of synthesizing nitrogen directly from soil? The nitrogen is converted into proteins that can be digested directly from the leaves of those plants.

33. Did you know that Nitrogen can be frozen solid? The frozen Nitrogen or solid Nitrogen looks like snow.

34. There is something called Nitrogen Fixation. This is actually a process in which elemental nitrogen is changed into compounds of nitrogen. For instance, one of many Nitrogen Fixation processes take place when a lightning strike makes oxygen and nitrogen in air to react.

35. We said that the plants convert/synthesize nitrogen from soil. What really happens is that there are numerous bacteria present on the root hair of the plants. They are the ones that carry out Nitrogen Fixation. These bacteria use nitrogen in soil and convert them into various compounds including nitrates. The plants then use those nitrates for making protein molecules.

Nitrogen Facts: 36-40

36. The truth is that humans, animals and plants directly do not possess the ability of Nitrogen Fixing. All of them have to depend on soil bacteria. Without these bacteria, plants won’t exist and without the plants, animals and humans won’t exist.

37. Nitrogen is very essential for protecting goods from oxygen. Sounds weird right? That’s true. Objects can oxidize in presence of oxygen and hence, they need some protection. In case you didn’t know, the packets of potato chips that you buy are filled mostly with nitrogen to protect the chips from oxygen.

38. Every year, Haber process is used for making around 150 tons of nitrogen, says, Royal Society of Chemistry.

39. There is a compound of nitrogen called the Nitrous Oxide. It is actually popular by the name ‘Laughing Gas’. When inhaled, it leads to euphoric effects, and hence, the name. This gas is used in dental clinics and hospitals as anesthetic.

40. In motor racing, Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is often used to boost engine speed. Ever played racing video games with Nitroboost option? Hell yes! It is true and that Nitroboost comes from the laughing gas.

Nitrogen Facts: 41-45

41. Okay, Nitrous Oxide may have some important applications, but did you know that it is actually an air pollutant and an important greenhouse gas? If measured by weight, it is 300 times more potent that Carbon Dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

42. There is something called Decompression Sickness. This is a condition when rapid reduction in pressure leads to nitrogen gas bubble formation in the bloodstream and various organs. The condition is more commonly known as ‘the bends’ and is widespread among scuba divers and even astronauts.

43. Liquid nitrogen is just liquefied form of nitrogen. It can be produced by fractional distillation of liquid air. Liquid nitrogen also has two atoms of nitrogen paired using a single covalent bond just like the nitrogen gas.

44. Since N2 denotes nitrogen gas, liquid nitrogen is often represented as LN2 or LN or LIN.

45. Liquid nitrogen has a boiling temperature of -320.4°F or -195.8°C or 77K at normal atmospheric pressure.

Nitrogen Facts: 46-50

46. Karol Olszewski and Zygmunt Wróblewski were the two Polish Physicists who first created liquid nitrogen back in 1883 on April 15.

47. Liquid nitrogen boils very rapidly and in the process in the process, creates an insulating nitrogen gas layer on the surrounding surface. This is known as Leidenfrost effect.

48. Liquid nitrogen requires special containers for storage. They are specially insulated with vents to prevent buildup of pressure. Depending on flask or dewar design, liquid nitrogen can be easily stored for up to weeks.

49. Liquid nitrogen is extremely cold. It it comes in contact with skin, it will immediately cause very severe frostbite. So, it is necessary to have proper precautions when dealing with liquid nitrogen. Even the cold vapors shouldn’t be inhaled.

50. Because liquid nitrogen is extremely cold, the phase transition to gas from liquid is superfast and it generates an awful lot of pressure. If a sealed container with no venting is used for enclosing liquid nitrogen, it can lead to explosion.

Nitrogen Facts: 51-55

51. Liquid nitrogen should always be handled in areas that are well-ventilated, because it boils with Leidenfrost effect and a thick large of nitrogen gas is created. It can lead to asphyxiation in enclosed areas.

52. Also, the nitrogen gas produced by Leidenfrost effect is very cold and it is heavier than air. So, the risk is greatest near the ground.

53. Cryopreservation uses liquid nitrogen and it is the PRIMARY object for Cryonics or Cryogenics.

54. Liquid nitrogen has numerous other uses like instant freezing of food products and transportation of food products.

55. It is used for shielding material from oxygen exposure, and also in Cryotherapy for removal of abnormalities on skin.

Nitrogen Facts: 56-60

56. It is also used as a coolant for vacuum pumps, superconductors and various other equipment and material.

57. It is not abnormal to find condensed oxygen accumulating in liquid nitrogen containers. Once the nitrogen evaporates, the condensed oxygen can lead to violent oxidation when organic matter comes into contact with it.

58. Nitrogen is a base element for many fertilizers. Ammonia remains the most important fertilizer till date since it was first manufactured artificially.

59. Triton – the satellite of Neptune has geysers powered by nitrogen that reach 5 miles up in the sky.

60. Nitrogen is abundant on Triton. The only problem is that Triton is so cold that all the nitrogen sits on its surface in form of solid rocks.

Nitrogen Facts: 61-68

61. Just how are the nitrogen geysers formed on Triton? Whatever sunlight reaches to Triton passes through the nitrogen ice and gradually warm up darker rocks and darker impurities that are present beneath the nitrogen ice.

62. As they warm up, the nitrogen immediately surrounding those darker rocks and darker impurities melt and eventually break through the nitrogen ice forming the powerful geysers.

63. Nitroglycerin – a compound of nitrogen is really helpful in providing relief from a medical condition called angina. It is a heart ailment and can be life-threatening.

64. The nitrogen present in our Universe was actually ‘made’. It was made through CNO cycle in stars that are bigger and heavier than our Sun.

65. Nitrogen produced within the stars during CNO cycle do not react and when those stars explode as Supernova, the accumulated nitrogen is expelled and distributed in the far reaches of our universe.

66. The nitrogen that we have today in our bodies in form of DNA was basically created billions of years ago in stars.

67. Even the atmospheric nitrogen present on our Earth was made some billions of years ago.

68. Did you know that there are various nitrogen compounds that are extremely explosive? Heard the name Trinitrotoluene? Yes, it is the infamous TNT! Yes, those bombs!


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