About Daniel Rutherford: Discoverer of Nitrogen Gas- WorldOfChemicals

Daniel Rutherford – discoverer of nitrogen gas

Nitrogen constituting 78.09% by volume of Earth's atmosphere.
Daniel Rutherford

Biography & Contributions

Daniel Rutherford was a Scottish chemist, physician, and botanist born on November 03, 1749 – died on December 15, 1819. Rutherford was famous for his discovery of nitrogen gas and maximum and minimum thermometers.

The following method is used by Rutherford to isolate nitrogen

Rutherford was keen on discovering more about this gas. So he trapped a mouse in a confined place. Once the air ran out the mouse died. Rutherford then burnt a candle in the rest of the air. When the flame also died out, he burnt a piece of phosphorous in the container till it stopped burning.

This air was then passed via a solution that absorbed the rest of the carbon dioxide. Rutherford had removed oxygen and carbon dioxide from this air mixture. He named the remaining, isolated gas as noxious air or phlogisticated air. He believed that this gas was given out by the mouse while breathing. Today we call the same gas Nitrogen.

Nitrogen Production

Nitrogen gas is an industrial gas produced by the fractional distillation of liquid air, or by mechanical means using gaseous air. Commercial nitrogen is often a byproduct of air-processing for an industrial concentration of oxygen for steelmaking and other purposes.

NH4Cl(aq) + NaNO2(aq) → N2(g) + NaCl(aq) + 2 H2O(l)

Facts about nitrogen


Nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is the most plentiful element in Earth’s atmosphere and is a constituent of all living matter and it belongs to the nonmetallic element of Group 15 of the periodic table. It is the lightest pnictogen and at room temperature, it is a colorless and odorless diatomic gas. Nitrogen is a common element in the universe, estimated at about seventh in total abundance in our galaxy and the Solar System. Nitrogen is a nonmetal, with an electronegativity of 3.04. It has five electrons in its outer shell and is, therefore, trivalent in most compounds.

Nitrogen used as a modified atmosphere, pure or mixed with carbon dioxide, to nitrogenate and preserve the freshness of packaged or bulk foods (by delaying rancidity and other forms of oxidative damage). Nitrogen is commonly used during sample preparation procedures for chemical analysis. It is used to concentrate and reduce the volume of liquid samples. Nitrogen can be used as a replacement, or in combination with, carbon dioxide to pressurize kegs of some beers.

Nitrogen tanks are also replacing carbon dioxide as the main power source for paintball guns. Nitrogen must be kept at higher pressure than CO2, making N2 tanks heavier and more expensive. It is used in cold traps for certain laboratory equipment and to cool infrared detectors or X-ray detectors. It has also been used to cool central processing units and other devices in computers that are overclocked, and that produce more heat than during normal operation.

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