What is the Importance of Nitrogen in the Environment?


Named after nitron, the Greek word for “native soda,” and genes for “forming,” nitrogen is the fifth most abundant gas in the universe. Nitrogen gas forms 78 percent of Earth’s air. 

In its gas form, nitrogen is odorless, colorless, and generally considered as inert. According to Los Alamos, Nitrogen is also odorless and colorless in its liquid form and looks similar to water. Too dull? No! It is anything about useless. 

Scientific Facts about Nitrogen:

  • Atomic symbol: N
  • Atomic weight: 14.0067
  • Atomic number: 7
  • Density: 0.0012506 grams per cubic centimeter
  • Room temperature phase: Gas
  • Melting point: minus 210 degrees Celsius (minus 321 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Boiling point: minus 195.79 C (minus 320.42 F)
  • Number of isotopes: 16 including two stable ones
  • Most common isotopes: Nitrogen-14 (99.63 percent)

Importance of Nitrogen in Atmosphere: 

Amino Acids and Protein: Our Atmosphere if filled with bacteria and other microorganisms suspended in the air. Some of these bacterias, also known as Nitrogen-fixing bacteria, can bind the Nitrogen gas and turn them into Nitrites and Nitrates. These molecules are further processed into amino acids necessary for DNA and proteins. The Nitrogen-fixing bacteria also created ammonia, which is needed by the plants, and hence, it is a fundamental building block of life. 

This process is called the Nitrogen Cycle.

The nitrogen cycle, in which aerial nitrogen is transformed into different organic compounds, is one the most important natural processes to support living organisms. During the revolution, bacteria in the soil transform airy nitrogen into ammonia, which plants need to grow. Other bacteria convert the ammonia into proteins and amino acids. Then animals eat the plants and absorb the protein. Nitrogen compounds return to the soil through animal poop. Bacteria transform the waste nitrogen back to nitrogen gas, which comes back to the atmosphere. 

All human tissue – skin, muscles, nails, hair, and blood – contains protein. The protein comes from nitrogen. 

Other Uses of Nitrogen:

  • Liquid nitrogen is commonly used as a refrigerant, for example, to store eggs, sperms, and other cells used in fertility clinics or medical research. Liquid nitrogen is also utilized to instantly freeze foods and preserve their texture, flavor, and moisture.
  • Nitrogen constitutes 94.7 percent of the atmosphere of Titan (the largest moon of Saturn).
  • Nitrogen gas plays a role in forming an aurora — a natural display of light in the sky that can be predominantly seen in Antarctic and Arctic regions — which occurs when fast-moving electrons from space collide with nitrogen and oxygen in our atmosphere.
  • Nitrogen gas can be produced by heating a water solution of ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), a crystalline solid commonly used in fertilizer. 
  • According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, about 150 tons of ammonia are produced every year using Haber.
  • Nitrogen in ammonium chloride form, NH4Cl, was created in ancient Egypt by heating a mixture of urine, animal excrement, and salt.
  • Nitroglycerin, a violent explosive used in dynamite composition, is a colorless, oily liquid that contains oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon.

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