Is Nitrogen a flammable gas? (A comprehensive overview)

This article will give you the answer to the question “Is Nitrogen a flammable gas?” and it will explain to you what exactly nitrogen is. The article will also help you to understand the importance of nitrogen, its flammability, properties and its uses.

Is Nitrogen a flammable gas?

Nitrogen is a non-flammable gas. It is a non-metal and it is an odorless and colorless chemical element. It also exists in both solid and liquid states.

The symbol, atomic number and atomic mass of nitrogen are given below:

  • Symbol: N
  • Atomic number: 7
  • Atomic mass: 28.02 g/mol

Discovery of Nitrogen 

In 1772, nitrogen was initially discovered by a Scottish scientist called Daniel Rutherford. Scientists Carl Scheel and Henry Cavendish also conducted experiments for the discovery of nitrogen but Rutherford was lauded for this discovery as his work was the first work to be published. 

During his combustion experiments, Rutherford found that there was a gas that does not aid the combustion process and this gas was nitrogen. Therefore we can clearly say that “Nitrogen is not a flammable gas”. At that time nitrogen was referred to as burnt air or mephitic air. Only later it was called “Nitrogen”.

About 78% of the atmosphere is dominated by nitrogen, the most common element in its pure form on earth.

Occurrence of Nitrogen 

Nitrogen is usually present in its raw form in the soil just like how oxygen is a part of air. This form of nitrogen is organic and cannot be used directly. Hence it keeps moving back and forth, between the air and soil. Even the nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) in human bodies contain nitrogen, and it is crucial for energy production, cell growth, etc.

In the atmosphere, there is a continuous exchange of nitrogen compounds. Nitrogen cannot be used by living organisms as such. Hence it must be converted into a different form such as ammonia, where it can be utilized directly. This conversion process is called “nitrogen fixing”. This fixing is usually carried out by some special kind of bacteria. 

Nitrogen (as a chemical element)

Nitrogen is a colorless, odorless and a non-flammable chemical element. It can exist as either a solid, liquid or gaseous state. Nitrogen comes under group 15 category of elements in the periodic table and it is the lightest element in that group.

Nitrogen exists abundantly on earth as well as the universe. Its presence has been found on other planets in the solar system and in the galaxy in general. Nitrogen exists as a diatomic molecule in the atmosphere and hence the formula N2

Physical Properties of Nitrogen 

The physical properties of nitrogen are given below:

  • The boiling point of nitrogen is -195.79 °C
  • The melting point of nitrogen is  ​−210.1 °C
  • The density of nitrogen is 1.251 g/L at standard temperature and pressure (STP)
  • The triple point of nitrogen is 63.15 K, ​12520 Pa
  • The critical point of nitrogen is 126.21 K, 3.39 MPa
  • The heat of vaporization of nitrogen is 2.792 kJ/mol 
  • The heat of fusion of nitrogen is 0.36 kJ/mol
  • The molar heat capacity of nitrogen is 14.57 J/(mol·K)

Flammability of Nitrogen 

Nitrogen is a non-flammable, colorless and odorless gas. Under ordinary circumstances, it is not possible for nitrogen to be ignited. However, nitrogen in combination with other gases such as oxygen can be flammable. 

Uses of nitrogen 

Nitrogen in the environment is the seventh most abundant element on earth. The application of nitrogen ranges right from medicines, fertilizer industries to even explosive manufacturing. It is quite a versatile element which is why it is used in various industries. 

Some of the uses of nitrogen are:

  • Food Industry
  • Electronics Industry
  • Steel and Metal Industry
  • Pharmaceutical Industry

Nitrogen in Food Industry:

Nitrogen is widely used in the food industry for the preservation of food. An artificial environment with a surplus of nitrogen gas is used in food preservation. Since there is no oxygen in such an environment, there is no oxidation and therefore this can prevent food damage. 

Nitrogen in Electronics Industry:

Nitrogen is widely used in the electronics industry for manufacturing electronics. One of the main use of nitrogen is that it is used in the internal chips, motherboard, etc. of computers, laptops and even mobile phones. Firstly, nitrogen stops the overheating in these devices and prevents them from getting damaged. Secondly, in the manufacturing process, nitrogen creates an inert atmosphere that prevents oxidation, which is responsible for electrical failures.

Nitrogen in Steel and Metal Industry:

The use of nitrogen is prevalent in the metal industry, especially in the steel manufacturing industry. In the production of stainless steel, nitrogen is used to remove the various forms of impurities. The reason why high quality and corrosion resistant stainless steel can be manufactured is due to the use of nitrogen in the manufacturing process. 

Nitrogen is also called as the “shielding gas” because it shields and protects the metal from damage and corrosion caused by oxidation.

Nitrogen in Pharmaceutical Industry:

The use of nitrogen is widespread in the pharmaceutical industry. Nitrogen is used in most of the drugs that target various problems. In its gaseous form, nitrogen is used for anaesthetic purposes in the form of nitrous oxide and it is also used for making antibiotics. Furthermore, biological cells such as sperm cells, eggs, stem cells, nerved and blood cells can be preserved with nitrogen gases.

Hazards of nitrogen

Although nitrogen is a non-flammable gas, it can cause serious hazards. Since nitrogen is colorless and odorless, it becomes difficult for the person exposed to identify the gas. Hence it is necessary to use a nitrogen detecting device in such situations.

Surplus nitrogen in the atmosphere can produce harmful pollutants such as ozone and ammonia, which can hamper our respiration, plant growth, human eyesight, etc. Nitrogen inhalation is known to cause nausea, lethargy, vomiting, dizziness, unconsciousness, and even death. Uncontrolled release of nitrogen from cylinders can be dangerous, it can lead to severe injuries. Nitrogen in the form of liquid is also very dangerous especially due to its low temperature and its ability to expand quickly.

It is crucial for all persons handling nitrogen to undergo specific training to handle such gases, especially in chemical plants where the risk is higher. Workers must wear protective gear such as boots and gloves at all times. In cases where the person is exposed to a nitrogen-rich environment, he or she must wear an oxygen mask. In addition to displaying bold signs that warn workers of the risks of enclosed spaces, employers will need to request permits for closed areas containing hazardous nitrogenous material.

Conclusion

This article addresses the question “Is nitrogen a flammable gas?” 

The article has given a comprehensive overview of nitrogen and its flammability. The article has also given information about the physical properties, discovery, uses and hazards of nitrogen. 

Please do not hesitate to comment on the above content or ask any questions in the comments section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): “Is Nitrogen a flammable gas?”

Why is nitrogen not flammable?

Nitrogen is not a flammable gas. It cannot catch fire easily in normal conditions. It is a stable element due to its strong bonds and hence it is difficult for it to catch fire.

Does nitrogen explode?

Although nitrogen is not a flammable gas, it can cause an explosion. These explosions are usually caused when the nitrogen gas in a container or cylinder expands. This can cause shock waves. Another possible way of an explosion is due to a sudden release of energy caused due to the formation of triple bonds in nitrogen.

Is nitrogen an element of fire?

No, nitrogen is not an element of fire. But the flames in the fire consist of oxygen, vapor, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. 

Is nitrogen combustible?

Nitrogen is a non-flammable, odorless and colorless gas. In normal conditions, nitrogen is not combustible. In fact, it is an element that does not support the combustion process.

Is pure nitrogen explosive in nature?

Pure nitrogen can be very dangerous. It is highly explosive in nature. In situations where there is surplus nitrogen, it can displace the oxygen and cause serious issues such as death. 

How does nitrogen put out a fire?

Nitrogen is a relatively stable element due to its strong bonding. It is non-flammable and has the capability to put out any form of fire. Most importantly, nitrogen does not release any byproducts when it comes in contact with fire which is why can be used to put out fires. It works by lowering the oxygen level in the environment which eventually causes the fire to stop burning.

Can liquid nitrogen put out a fire? 

Yes, Liquid nitrogen has the capability to put off fires. Although it cannot be frozen, as it is not very cold but it acts as an envelope over the fire and suppressed the oxygen. This eventually puts out the fire.

Why nitrogen cannot be used as a fire extinguisher?

Although nitrogen has the ability to put out a fire, it cannot be easily used in fire extinguishers. Since nitrogen is non-flammable it does not have the ability to absorb the heat from the fire. Also, unlike water or any other extinguishing media, it is not possible for nitrogen to cool the fuel in order to put off a fire.

References

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