Nitrogen Family (Encyclopedia of Science)
The nitrogen family consists of the five elements that make up Group 15 of the periodic table: nitrogen, phosphorus, arsenic, antimony, and bismuth. These five elements share one important structural property: they all have five electrons in the outermost energy level of their atoms. Nonetheless, they are strikingly different from each other in both physical properties and chemical behavior. Nitrogen is a nonmetallic gas; phosphorus is a solid nonmetal; arsenic and antimony are metalloids; and bismuth is a typical metal.
Nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas with a melting point of 10°C (46°F) and a boiling point of 96°C (20°F). It is the most abundant element in the atmosphere, making up about 78 percent by volume of the air that surrounds Earth. The element is much less common in Earth's crust, however, where it ranks thirty-third (along with gallium) in abundance. Scientists estimate that the average concentration of nitrogen in crustal rocks is about 19 parts per million, less than that of elements such as neodymium, lanthanum, yttrium, and scandium, but greater than that of well-known metals such as lithium, uranium, tungsten, silver, mercury, and platinum.
The most important naturally occurring compounds of nitrogen are potassium nitrate (saltpeter), found primarily in India, and sodium nitrate (Chile saltpeter),...
(The entire section is 1841 words.)
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