The Effects of Nitrogen in our Atmosphere

Molecular nitrogen is the principal constituent of the atmosphere (78 percent by volume of dry air), in which its concentration is a result of the balance between the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen by bacterial, electrical (lightening), and chemical (industrial) action, and it’s liberation through the decomposition of organic materials by bacteria or combustion. In the combined state, nitrogen occurs in a variety of forms. It is a constituent of all proteins (both plant and animal) as well as of many other organic materials. Its chief mineral source is sodium nitrate. The methods for the preparation of elementary nitrogen may be grouped into two classes, separation from the atmosphere and decomposition of nitrogen compounds. The industrial method for the production of nitrogen is the fractional distillation of liquid air. Nitrogen containing about 1 percent argon and traces of other inert gases may be obtained by the chemical removal of oxygen reagents. Because the importance of nitrogen compounds in agriculture and chemical industry, much of the industrial interest in elementary nitrogen has been in processes for converting elemental nitrogen into nitrogen compounds. The principal methods for doing this are the Haber process for the direct synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen, the electric are process, which involves the direct combination of N2 and O2 to nitric oxide, and the cyanamide process. Nitrogen is also used for filling bulbs of incandescent lamps and, in general, wherever a relatively insert atmosphere is required.

--Susan Keen