MadSci Network: Physics

Re: Is it possible to excite nitrogen to a state that it will rapidly oxidize?

Date: Tue May 30 20:22:25 2006
Posted By: Ves Childs, Staff, inventor, electrochemistry, 3M retired
Area of science: Physics
ID: 1148785359.Ph

Andrew asked: “Is it possible to excite nitrogen to a state that it will rapidly oxidize?”

Paraphrasing: “Can I use an electric discharge to cause elemental nitrogen to react with elemental oxygen?”

The answer is yes. Nature has been doing it for millions of years with lightning.

From the gist of the last paragraph it seems that his real interest is the reaction of elemental nitrogen with elemental oxygen to produce heat and use that heat to produce mechanical energy. In this case the question would be: “Can I react elemental nitrogen with elemental oxygen and recover useful amounts of heat?”

The answer to this question is no. It requires considerably more energy to activate/excite the nitrogen than you can recover.

This is discussed in many textbooks. The one on my shelf is Advanced Inorganic Chemistry, fifth edition, by Cotton and Wilkinson.

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