10 Major Nitrogen Applications - WorldOfChemicals

Interesting facts about nitrogen element

Applications of nitrogen

Nitrogen is a chemical element and it can be represented as N with the atomic number of 7. In normal conditions, nitrogen is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. Nitrogen makes up around 78 percent in our surrounding atmosphere. Nitrogen is one of the primary nutrients critical for the survival of all living organisms. Although nitrogen is very abundant in the atmosphere, it is largely inaccessible in elemental form to most organisms.

Nitrogen is also present in other forms. When people think of nitrogen, they immediately associate it with the air in the environment. Nitrogen not only part of the atmosphere but also part of the food they eat every day. Since its discovery, scientists have learned a lot about it and today with technology development nitrogen is commercially available in large amounts, various forms. The most common types are the nitrous oxide and super coolant liquid nitrogen. Nitrous oxide is one of the nitrogen compound commonly known as laughing gas.


Liquid nitrogen is nitrogen in a liquid state at an extremely low temperature. It is produced industrially by fractional distillation of liquid air. Liquid nitrogen is a colorless clear liquid. Liquid nitrogen is a compact and readily transported source of nitrogen gas without pressurization. Liquid nitrogen has also become popular in the preparation of cocktails because it can be used to quickly chill glasses or freeze ingredients.

Liquid nitrogen can be applied for freezing and transport of food products, cryopreservation of biological samples, and coolant for superconductors, vacuum pumps, also used in cryotherapy to remove skin abnormalities, shielding materials from oxygen exposure, cooling materials for easier machining or fracturing.

This element is the lightest in the nitrogen group. Nitrogen can join up with other elements. The bonds are very effective because nitrogen’s outermost electron shell has few electrons. That is the reason why it is sometimes used as a buffer gas. Nitrogen is present as one of the building blocks or constituent of amino acids, proteins, nucleic acids, chlorophyll, and other biomolecules.

Nitrogen is one of the primary nutrients critical for the survival of all living organisms. Although nitrogen is very abundant in the atmosphere as dinitrogen gas (N2), it is largely inaccessible in this form to most organisms, making nitrogen a scarce resource and often limiting primary productivity in many ecosystems. Only when nitrogen is converted from dinitrogen gas into ammonia (NH3) does it become available to primary producers, such as plants.

Nitrogen is a fascinating element with many unique properties and uses related to fertilizer, dynamite, medical anesthetic and even car racing. Read interesting facts about the nitrogen atom, liquid nitrogen, nitrous oxide, nitric acid, nitroglycerin and much more.

Nitrogen is present in all living things, including the human body and plants. Nitrogen gas is used in food storage to keep packaged or bulk foods fresh. It is also used in the making of electronic parts, for industrial purposes and has many other useful applications. Nitrogen gas is often used as an alternative to carbon dioxide for storing beer in pressurized kegs.

Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, has an atmosphere nearly entirely made of nitrogen. It is the only moon in our solar system known to have a dense atmosphere. Nitrogen is in a liquid state when at a very low temperature. Liquid nitrogen boils at 77 Kelvin (−196 °C, −321 °F). It is easily transported and has many useful applications including storing items at cold temperatures, in the field of cryogenics, as a computer coolant, removing warts and much more.

Nitrogen role in health care and diseases

Decompression sickness involves nitrogen bubbles forming in the bloodstream and other important areas of the body when people depressurize too quickly from scuba diving. Similar situations can occur for astronauts and those working in unpressurized aircraft. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is used in hospitals and dental clinics as an anesthetic. Nitrous oxide is also used in motor racing to increase the power of engine and speed of the vehicle. Nitrous oxide is a considerable greenhouse gas and air pollutant. By weight is has nearly 300 times more impact than carbon dioxide.

Nitroglycerin is a liquid used to create explosives such as dynamite. It is often used in the demolition and construction industries as well as by the military. Nitric acid (HNO3) is a strong acid often used in the production of fertilizers. Ammonia (NH3) is another nitrogen compound commonly used in fertilizers.

Rainfall adds about 10 pounds of nitrogen to the soil per acre per year. The nitrogen oxides and ammonium that are washed to earth are formed during electrical storms, by internal combustion engines, and through oxidation by sunlight. Some scientists also believe that some of the gaseous products that result from the transformation of nitrogen fertilizers may cause a depletion of the ozone (O3) layer around the earth. The extent of this possible damage has not been substantiated.

Crop residues decompose in the soil to form soil organic matter. This organic matter contains about 5 percent nitrogen. An acre-foot of soil having 2 percent organic matter would contain about 3,500 pounds of nitrogen. Generally, about 1 to 3 percent of this organic nitrogen is converted per year by microorganisms to a form of nitrogen that plants can use.


Commercial fertilizer nitrogen comes in three basic forms

  • Gaseous nitrogen
  • Liquid nitrogen
  • Dry nitrogen

All forms are equally effective when properly applied. Once applied, fertilizer nitrogen is subject to the same transformations as other sources of nitrogen.

Nitrogen Transformations

Nitrogen exists in a number of chemical forms and undergoes chemical and biological reactions.

Organic nitrogen to ammonium nitrogen

Organic nitrogen comprises over 95 percent of the nitrogen found in soil. This form of nitrogen cannot be used by plants but is gradually transformed by soil microorganisms to ammonium (NH4+). Ammonium is not leached to a great extent. Since NH4+ is a positively charged ion, it is attracted to and held by the negatively charged soil clay. Ammonium is available to plants.

Ammonium nitrogen to nitrate nitrogen (nitrification)

In warm, well-drained soil, ammonium transforms rapidly to nitrate (NO3-). Nitrate is the principle form of nitrogen used by plants. It leaches easily since it is a negatively charged ion (anion) and is not attracted to soil clay. The nitrate form of nitrogen is a major concern in pollution.

Nitrate or ammonium nitrogen to organic nitrogen (immobilization)

Soil microorganisms use nitrate and ammonium nitrogen when decomposing plant residues. The addition of 20 to 70 pounds of nitrogen per ton of these residues is needed to prevent this transformation. After the residues are decomposed, the microbial population begins to die back and processes 1 and 2 take place.

Nitrate nitrogen to gaseous nitrogen (denitrification)

When soil does not have sufficient air, microorganisms use the oxygen from NO3- in place of that in the air and rapidly convert NO3- to nitrogen oxide and nitrogen gases (N2). These gases escape to the atmosphere and are not available to plants. This transformation can occur within two or three days in poorly aerated soil and can result in large loses of nitrate-type fertilizers.

Ammonium nitrogen to ammonia gas (ammonia volatilization)

Soils that have a high pH can lose large amounts of NH4+ by conversion to NH3 gas. To minimize these losses, incorporate solid ammonium-type fertilizers, urea and anhydrous ammonia below the surface of moist soil.

Applications of nitrogen

This element is present in virtually all pharmacological drugs. In the form of nitrous oxide, it is used as an anesthetic. Cryopreservation also uses the gas to conserve egg, blood, sperm and other biological specimens. The CPUs in computers use the gas to keep them from heating up. X-ray detectors also rely on this element.

The element is used in controlling pollution. It is effective in getting rid of unstable organic compounds in liquids. Many industries use it to destroy toxic liquids and vapors in industrial tools. Like nitrogen dioxide, the element is vital in the industrial sector. It also serves as an oxidation reaction catalyst. Apart from being an oxidizing agent, it can also be used as a flour bleaching agent and rocket fuel.

It has found several uses in the industrial sector, of which a few important uses are explained below.

Light Bulbs

Nitrogen is often used in making light bulbs. It serves as an inexpensive substitute for argon in incandescent light bulbs.

Packaged Foods

Nitrogen is used to preserve the freshness of packaged foods. Nitrogen can prevent the oxidation of food, and thus delay rancidity and other forms of oxidative damage.


Nitrogen is one of the most important ingredients in fertilizers, to increase soil fertility. It is used to make other fertilizers like ammonia and urea, which are used to promote plant growth and increase yield.

Reactive compounds production

 It can produce a range of unstable and highly reactive compounds, like nitrogen triiodide, ammonium nitrate, trinitrotoluene (TNT), nitric acid, and nitroglycerin.

Electronic Parts

Nitrogen is used for making transistors, integrated circuits, and diodes.

Stainless Steel

Nitrogen is often used in manufacturing stainless steel, electroplating processes in order to make it stronger and more resistant to corrosion.

High Voltage Equipment

Dried and pressurized nitrogen gas is used as a dielectric gas for high voltage equipment. Nitrogen is also used as a pressurizing gas to propel liquids through pipelines.

Nitrogen is also used for pollution control, especially for eliminating volatile organic compounds from liquids. It can help remove harmful vapors and liquids from industrial equipment as well.


Nitrogen is a constituent of almost every major class of drugs, including antibiotics. In the form of nitrous oxide, nitrogen is used as a pharmaceutical anesthetic agent.


[1] © From, http://www.usesof.net/uses-of-nitrogen.html

[2] © From, http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/crops/00550.html

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