Nitrogen is one of the most abundant elements in our world and the seventh most abundant element in the galaxy. The air we breathe is about 78% nitrogen, and so we inhale more of it than we do oxygen. Nitrogen is gentle to organic life. But because of its strong bond in its most common form, N2 or dinitrogen, it has many properties that have become useful in chemistry and various industries. It is an essential component of fertiliser. It can be used as an explosive, it has several uses in the food industry, and when it is very cold, it can be used in cryogenics. Here are some of the more common applications for nitrogen.
- Food Industry: Nitrogen has many uses in the food industry because it is mainly an inert gas that prevents oxidation, which helps reduce food spoilage. You might see oxygen used to aerate foods like chocolate to make them light and airy. The bubbles in a bottle of Guinness are nitrogen bubbles that help produce its velvety head. Nitrogen is also pumped into airtight packaging to keep food fresh. Gas nitrogen machines are used in many industries, and they mainly utilise the free and readily available nitrogen in the atmosphere.
- Healthcare: Nitrogen as a compressed gas is sometimes needed to assist people with reduced lung capacity and breathing troubles. When people have trouble receiving enough oxygen, nitrogen is added to oxygen in specific percentages to dilute the oxygen because it is toxic in a pure state. Medical oxygen is usually about 60% oxygen and 40% nitrogen.
- Racing: Adding nitrogen to tires is becoming more popular because people have learned that it is common to fill tires with pure nitrogen in racing. Nitrogen expands less than oxygen at ambient temperatures, so removing the oxygen from racing tires gives the teams more control over tire pressure and, therefore, traction. The benefits to everyday drivers are less apparent.
- Liquid Nitrogen: If you can get nitrogen below -196C, it becomes a liquid. Then it becomes beneficial for keeping other things cold. It is instrumental for scientific purposes when super-low temperatures are required for experiments and chemical reactions. It is used extensively for reproductive health services to freeze sperm, eggs, and embryos. Physicists also use liquid nitrogen to cool things such as lasers and superconductors.
- Antifogging: When hollow objects need to be clear, condensation can be a problem with temperature differences. Pure nitrogen contains no water vapor, so vessels are filled with nitrogen gas to eliminate the problem. Viewing scopes and dual pane windows are commonly nitrogen-filled.
- Gas Chromatography: Because of nitrogen’s availability and inert nature, it is also instrumental in gas chromatography as a carrier gas and a mobile phase gas. Gas chromatography is a technique used to identify the elements in a substance.
Nitrogen also combines with other elements to create valuable compounds such as Ammonia, which has numerous uses, like fertiliser, cleaning agents, and metal treatment. Nitrogen is one of the primary elements of life, and we are fortunate that we have it everywhere in abundance.
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