Nitrogen in airNitrogen is a reactive gas. It is present in air in small quantity. Why are there not small blasts of nnitrogen in air?

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bandmanjoe's profile pic

bandmanjoe | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

Yes, my textbook says 78% of the atmosphere is nitrogen, 21% is oxygen, and 1% is carbon dioxide, argon, water vapor, and other trace gases.  At the temperature and energy level containede in our atmosphere, it most definitely is NOT explosive.  If it were, there have been plenty of incidents throughout history that would have touched it off.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I would just add that nitrogen is not present in the air in small quantities, it actually makes up over 75% of the earth's atmosphere. But, it is not that reactive at normal temperatures, less so, in fact, than oxygen. One concern people had when the first atomic bomb was detonated was that the bomb might set off a chain fusion reaction of nitrogen, killing all life on the planet.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Do you want to know why the nitrogen is not creating explosions? The nitrogen gas in our atmosphere is diluted, unlike other planets where it might create explosions.  The air would not be safe to breathe.  Because we have safer gases, such as oxygen, it is breathable.

wannam's profile pic

wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

While nitrogen can be combustible, it has to be in the right concentration and the correct air mix to ignite.  In our regular atmosphere, these conditions are not met.  The nitrogen is in small quantities and it is mixed with other gases.  In order for it to combust, it must have a higher concentration and be less obstructed by other gases.  Reactive gases must also have a catalyst for combustion.  Without an ignition source, nitrogen will not spontaneously ignite.

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