Nitrogen is natural gas available in the air with a concentration of 78.09%.
It forms 78% of the earth’s atmosphere, making it the largest available element.
Chemically it is a combination of two atoms of nitrogen and each atom has 7 electrons.
But in the atmosphere, nitrogen exists in different forms like ammonia, oxides, organic compounds, etc.
It is available in almost all livings beings starting from bacteria to man.
It is a less expensive and safe gas and hence, it is widely used for industrial purposes.
Nitrogen can be used in the form of pure gas and also as a liquid.
Besides, it is also used in an elemental form where it forms various nitrogen compounds that are used by man for daily needs.
Uses of nitrogen gas
1. In health care for respiratory assistance.
- In patients who have respiratory insufficiency due to disorders like COPD & emphysema, nitrogen gas is needed.
- Due to a decline in lung capacity, these people cannot breathe sufficient oxygen from the air.
- So they are given oxygen therapy. Here oxygen gas is given in combination with nitrogen.
- 100% oxygen is toxic to breathe as it produces oxidative free radicals.
- So oxygen is combined with nitrogen at a certain ratio and given to breathe by tubes directly inserted into the nose.
- Here, nitrogen is preferred because in the air we breathe, there is a nitrogen concentration of 70% while oxygen is 21 %.
- So in treatment, it is safe to combine oxygen with nitrogen.
But the only difference to air is, here the oxygen concentration is higher.
2. In gas chromatography
- In chromatography, it is used as a carrier gas, and mobile phase gas.
- This is specifically preferred due to features like non-reactivity, chemical neutrality.
- Further, it is commercially cheaper than other gases used in gas chromatography.
3. To remove excess solvent.
- This is practiced especially in research studies.
- When a substance is broken down in an organic solvent, the excess solvent is removed by passing a stream of pure nitrogen gas after the process.
- Evaporation can also be done to remove the excess solvent by heating.
- But when the substance or sample is heat sensitive or gets damaged due to heat, then it needs a non-heat method of drying.
- Hence when nitrogen is passed through, it carries away organic solvent gradually. Thus the solution gets concentrated.
4. Inflation of tires
- Nowadays, nitrogen gas is widely used for the inflation of tires instead of normal air.
- Nitrogen gas helps in a longer duration of inflation, longer tire life due to lack of rubber oxidation.
- It is also believed that it helps in a smooth drive without chances of tire bursts.
5. Liquid nitrogen uses.
- Nitrogen in nature is in gaseous form.
- But when cooled, it converts to liquid at -210 degrees temperature. It is represented as Liquid LIN or LN2.
- So this liquid nitrogen is very chill and can be used to preserve and transport biological samples with damage.
- But interestingly, this liquid nitrogen is very harsh to hold.
- It is cryogenic and when put on hand, it can freeze the tissue immediately.
- Hence there are special containers to hold it and dispense it.
One should not use their hands to hold it.
In other forms
Nitrogen forms many compounds in nature. Some are also synthesized by man for different uses. These compounds include
- Ammonium is a compound of nitrogen.
- It is formed naturally in nature and also made by man.
- It is used as a fertilizer in agriculture in the form of ammonium sulfate, ammonium nitrate, and even urea.
- This ammonium is used to generate amino acids, which help in the formation of proteins.
- Besides, ammonia is used as a refrigerant in refrigerators and other cooling systems to provide a cooling effect.
Nitric oxide (NO)
- Nitric monoxide is a natural molecule released in the body.
- It is a type of chemical messenger which dilates blood vessels and other tissues.
- In medicine, we use glyceryl trinitrate in the form of a sublingual tablet to release NO.
- This Nitric oxide immediately dilates tiny blood vessels in the heart and saves the person from fatal heart arrest.
Nitrous oxide (N2O)
This is called laughing gas. It has mild anesthetic effects. So it is used in minor surgeries like in dentistry.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
Nitrogen dioxide is used in the synthesis of nitric acid and nitrogen fertilizers
Nitric acid (HNO3)
- This is a strong acid used in inorganic chemistry.
- It is used to estimate the concentration of bases by acidimetry.
- These are the building blocks of proteins.
- They are formed in the body by the process of RNA translation.
- These amino acids so produced are grouped to form proteins.
- These proteins form the solid structure of plants and animals.
- Hence those who are found to have a lean body are advised to consume enough protein.
- This is because these proteins break down into amino acids in the digestive tract.
- These amino acids absorbed from the intestine are again utilized by the body to form proteins.
- Nucleic acids are the genetic structures in the body.
- They decide the shape and characters of an individual or plant.
- These nucleic acids have nitrogen containing bases.
- These nitrogenous bases are five, namely Adenine, guanine, thymine, cytosine and uracil.
- When broken, they release urea and uric acid.
- Due to this element, hydrogen bonds are formed to give stability.
- Besides, it also combines with carbon to form organic compounds like pyridine, pyrimidine, etc.
What is the use of nitrogen in our body?
As seen in the discussion above, nitrogen helps major biomolecules like protein and nucleic acids. Proteins help in the structural build-up of our body. While the nucleic acids lie DNA and RNA give character to the whole body.