[Nitrogen facts] Is Nitrogen Explosive or flammable?

Ranging from fertilizers to synthetic clothes, nitrogen is a widely used chemical all around the world. As the modernization of society continues, the use of chemicals like nitrogen in industries keeps on rising.

As this chemical is used in many products that everyone knows and uses daily, it is only logical to ask; is nitrogen explosive?

Nitrogen is not explosive in typical nitrogen gas storage conditions. But, if liquid nitrogen is stored in a compact cylinder, and exposed to heat from the outer side. In that case, the liquid turns to gas and expands suddenly, leading to an explosion!

If you are curious as well, keep reading this article to know the facts!

is nitrogen explosive

Also Read: Check out our other article about What Makes An Oxygen Tank Explode?

Is nitrogen a dangerous gas?

Nitrogen is a chemically inert gas, which means it is not toxic and cannot react with other gases. However, this does not mean that it cannot be deadly.

If nitrogen concentration in the air is increased. In that case, an average person will suffer from many symptoms like physical pain and becoming mentally unstable. Another reason for it to be a deadly gas is that it has no smell and is colorless. So if the concentration of nitrogen rises, people would not even know.

What does it feel like inhaling too much nitrogen? First, scientists say, inhaling nitrogen does not make humans feel suffocated, as long as they are exhaling carbon dioxide. Normally, suffocation gives humans a sense of burning and pain.

But as carbon dioxide levels in our blood never rise with inhaling nitrogen, these symptoms do not occur.

Is nitrogen gas flammable or explosive?

What if you turned your car engine, and the entire world explodes? That is what would have happened if nitrogen gas had ever become explosive. Nitrogen makes up about 78 percent of the atmosphere leaving roughly 22 percent oxygen and a few other gases.

Nitrogen gas is neither flammable nor explosive. And if it ever became explosive, it would cause a huge explosion in the world everywhere, using up all of the atmosphere’s oxygen, leaving us nothing to breathe!

Why is Nitrogen Triiodide explosive?

To answer this question, we need to dive into a bit of chemistry. Nitrogen triiodide is a highly explosive chemical that can easily be made from two ingredients, ammonia, and concentrated iodine. As some may have guessed from its name, Nitrogen triiodide is made up of one atom of nitrogen and three atoms of iodine.

The size of iodine is much bigger than that of nitrogen. Therefore, the molecule of nitrogen triiodide is unstable as the three iodine atoms are constantly “fighting” for enough room in the molecule. This makes Nitrogen triiodide very unstable and explosive.

What is the difference between Liquid Nitrogen and Nitrogen gas?

There are significant differences between liquid nitrogen and Nitrogen gas. Nitrogen gas is a naturally available substance, but liquid nitrogen does not form naturally and is artificial. Liquid nitrogen is mainly used to preserve items cryogenically.

In contrast, nitrogen gas is used in many cases, such as chemicals, nylon, dyes, and fertilizers.

What are the dangers of liquid nitrogen?

Liquid nitrogen can be a very hazardous chemical. It is stored in freezing temperatures and needs proper handling. Some traits of liquid nitrogen are, it is colorless, it is tasteless, and it is odorless. When exposed to the human body, it can cause frostbite and cryogenic burns.

It gives off vapors of cold nitrogen gas, which can also cause cold burns and frostbite. In addition, when exposed to the eyes, it can freeze eye fluids causing permanent eye damage.

When liquid nitrogen vaporizes into cold nitrogen gas, it expands to about seven hundred times in volume. Due to its properties of being colorless and odorless, it is hard to detect. In a confined space, the vaporization of nitrogen can cause oxygen to drop to dangerous levels. This can cause unconsciousness and other asphyxiation hazards.

As liquid nitrogen is stored at very low temperatures, the oxygen in the air surrounding the liquid nitrogen containment system can condense to liquid oxygen. However, the boiling temperature of nitrogen is lower than that of oxygen. Therefore, liquid nitrogen remains condensed outside the containment system of liquid nitrogen when liquid nitrogen is returned to average temperature.

When this liquid oxygen is exposed to flammable substances, massive explosions may occur. This is the reason why combustible material should be kept away from liquid nitrogen containment systems.

When liquid nitrogen vaporizes into nitrogen gas, intense pressure builds up in the containers it’s stored in; excess pressure from this can cause the container to explode. Liquid nitrogen should never be stored in a closed system.

How do nitrates explode?

Nitrates belong to a class of oxidizers and react with other elements and compounds to provide oxygen. These oxidizers are very useful and widely used in industries.

However, they can form an explosive mixture with flammable, organic, or easily oxidized materials. Nitrates also explode by themselves when the temperature of the reaction mixture gets very high.

Will Ammonium Nitrate explode?

Normally Ammonium nitrate is not explosive at room temperature. It is solid and melts at about 170 degrees Celsius. It can be made to explode by melting it past the temperature of 170 degrees Celsius in “runway” conditions.

Why is Ammonium Nitrate so explosive?

Ammonium nitrate isn’t an explosive itself; it accelerates the combustion of other materials by providing high volumes of oxygen. This acceleration of combustion is what causes the explosions when ammonium nitrate is mixed with certain chemicals and reactions.

Ammonium nitrate also decomposes violently in high temperatures. The rapid release of gases during decomposition also causes them to explode.

Also Read: What Makes Water Catch Fire? 

What type of explosive is Ammonium Nitrate?

Ammonium Nitrate belongs to a group of explosives chemically known as “Oxidizers.” Compared to other explosive materials, ammonium nitrate is not exceptionally explosive. Oxidizers are substances that provide oxygen in a reaction.

Oxygen is a critical component in an explosion as nothing can burn or explode without it. With an oxidizer like Ammonium Nitrate, Oxygen is provided in a reaction very fast, resulting in quicker burning and faster explosions.

Why is Ammonium Nitrate so dangerous?

Ammonium Nitrates are dangerous for the following reasons:

  • Ammonium Nitrate is very safe as long as it is stored uncontaminated. However, it can mix with fuels or other chemicals to form deadly explosives. So, it can be a big risk if it is not properly stored and without supervision.
  • Ammonium nitrate decomposes at very high temperatures; if it is stored somewhere with high temperatures and in bulk, It poses a risk of explosion. However, it is safe in cool places with proper ventilation.
  • Explosions of ammonium nitrate can give off many toxic gases like vapors of nitrous oxide, which cause harm to the atmosphere and causes acid rain.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article gave you a clear concept of nitrogen’s explosiveness and some of its compound’s susceptibility to explosions. Knowing these things can be very useful if you ever came across these chemicals in real life.

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