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What Is Nitrogen?

Nitrogen is a chemical element that is crucial in sustaining the Earth’s atmosphere and all life. In fact, about 80% of the atmosphere is made of nitrogen. It plays, literally, such a big part in life that scientists say that it is the seventh most abundant chemical in the universe.

While people don’t notice it—it has no scent, taste, or even color--they in fact inhale nitrogen each time they breathe, and consume it even in the food they eat. It is part of crucial compounds like amino and nucleic acids. It plays a huge role in photosynthesis: plants (often called nitrogen fixers) even end up storing nitrogen and distributers to the rest of the organisms in the eco system. Nitrogen can also be found in some types of commercial products such as super coolants and even anesthesia.

Nitrogen is non metallic. It is classified as a gas, and goes by the chemical symbol “N” with the atomic number of “7.” It is grouped with bismuth, antimony and arsenic This group is characterized by its ability to form strong and very stable bonds with other elements, due to incomplete number of electrons in its outermost shell. Thanks to this property many chemists use nitrogen as a “buffer” gas.

Nitrogen was “discovered” or isolated in 1772, though scientists were able to deduce its presence long before that thanks to nitric acid.

Nitrogen, while a crucial part of the atmosphere and of all human life, cannot be isolated without risk. Pure nitrogen can displace oxygen and lead to asphyxiation and decompression sickness, where nitrogen bubbles form in the blood.

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