The Biography Of Nitrogen Essay Research Paper

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The Biography Of Nitrogen Essay, Research Paper Nitrogen This is the story of nitrogen, a significant element, a powerful element, and an often misunderstood or underestimated element. Nitrogen is one of the many elements on the Periodic Table. Like all the rest, nitrogen has its own set of unique properties, compounds, and features. This element plays an important role in modern technology and science. Although the average person may not know it, nitrogen is responsible for many things we take for granted. This element is especially important because of where it is applied. Even though this element may not be as popular as other elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, helium, or even carbon, it plays a major part in life, the environment, industry, and basically almost everything

else. We might not know it, but we owe a lot to nitrogen. Nitrogen has a history that dates back to more than 1,000 years. It is an interesting story of various civilizations’ contributions to recognizing and understanding this element throughout human history. One of the first nitrogen compounds to be discovered was what was called saltpeter or also known as niter. The first known experimentations with nitrogen were done by the Chinese. They tried mixing substances together so they can live forever. They also believed it would help them make gold. When they mixed saltpeter and sulphur, then set it on fire, the mixture exploded. This is how the Chinese got the idea for firecrackers. Yet, no one realized that the saltpeter contained nitrogen. Before modern elements were

discovered, people generally thought that there were 4 elements – earth, water, fire, and air. Thus, no one thought that the air was made up of more than one component. This was so until a Chinese man name Mao-Khoa wrote that air contains what is called yin and yang. Khao described yang as being perfect by itself because it did not react with other things. This sound a lot like nitrogen. Khoa also stated that yin was an incomplete air that was sucked into a burning material. This description seems very similar to that of oxygen which is part of the air and does get sucked into a burning material. Mao-Khoa’s findings never reach Europe however. Although the Europeans remained unaware of the two parts of the air, they did know of the firecrackers, and by the 900’s the Chinese

were using their knowledge to launch arrows against enemies. These were the first cannons and guns which were worked by exploding the black powder. This knowledge of gunpowder quickly spread through the Middle East to Europe. Europeans also learned that niter had another important use, when added to crops it made them grow larger and faster. It is then that people started to study nitrogen more and discovered other nitrogen compounds such as nitric acid. In the early 1700’s a scientist name Stephen Hale studied smoky fumes given off by various chemical reactions. Hale knew that a flame would not light up in the air remaining after a candle had burned in a small space. Hale believed that the air was somehow “infected” and thus would not light up the candle. This is so

because the flame had consumed all of the oxygen of course. Although he did not realize it, Hale’s infected air was nitrogen. At that time many other scientists were experimenting with nitrogen such as Henry Cavindish. During the 1770’s Cavindish discovered a difference between nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide was absorbed by lye but nothing at that time could absorb nitrogen. At that time Joseph Priestly stated that nothing known could absorb this “strange air”. In 1772 the two chemists that are credited with the discovery of nitrogen published their results. Daniel Rutherford – a Scottish chemists distinguished nitrogen from carbon dioxide the same way that Cavindish. The other was Carl Wilhelm Scheele – a Swedish chemist who did other test that showed