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8.2: Reaction Chemistry of Nitrogen

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  • Despite nitrogen being the inert component of the Earth’s atmosphere, dinitrogen undergoes a range of reactions, although it only reacts with a few reagents under standard temperature and pressure. Nitrogen reacts with oxygen in an electric arc, (8.2.1), both in the laboratory and within lightening strikes.

    \[ \text{N}_2\text{ + O}_2\rightarrow\text{2 NO}\]

    The synthesis of ammonia is accomplished by the Harber process, using an iron oxide (Fe3O4) catalyst, (8.2.2), at about 500 °C and 200 atmospheres pressure.

    \[ \text{N}_2\text{ + 3 H}_2 \rightarrow \text{2 NH}_3 \]

    Nitrogen reacts with lithium metal at room temperature to form the nitride, (8.2.3). Magnesium also burns in nitrogen, forming magnesium nitride, (8.2.4).

    \[\text{6 Li + N}_2 \rightarrow \text{2 Li}_3\text{N}\]

    \[ \text{3 Mg + N}_2 \rightarrow \text{Mg}_3\text{N}_2\]

    Nitrogen forms complexes with transition metals yielding nitrogeno complexes, (8.2.5). Under some conditions these complexes react to give ammonia, (8.2.6), and as such may give a hint to the action of nitrogenase in which molybdenum in the active site.

    \[\text{[(NH}_3\text{)}_5\text{Ru}^{II}\text{(H}_2\text{O)]}^{2+}\text{ + N}_2 \rightarrow \text{[(NH}_3\text{)}_5\text{Ru}^{II}\text{(N}_2\text{)]}^{2+}\]

    \[\text{[W(N}_2\text{)}_2\text{(PR}_3\text{)}_4\text{]} \xrightarrow{\text{H}_2\text{SO}_4\text{/MeOH}} \text{2 NH}_3\text{ + N}_2 \uparrow \text{ + W}^{VI}\text{ compounds}\]

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