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[[Category:Chemical compounds]]
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[[Category:Air Pollution]]
[[Category:Air Pollution]]

Revision as of 01:34, December 4, 2012

Nitrogen dioxide is the chemical compound with the formula NO2 it is one of several nitrogen oxides. NO2 is an intermediate in the industrial synthesis of nitric acid, millions of tons of which are produced each year. This reddish-brown toxic gas has a characteristic sharp, biting odor and is a prominent air pollutant. Nitrogen dioxide is a paramagnetic bent molecule with C2v point group symmetry.

Safety and pollution considerations

Nitrogen dioxide is toxic by inhalation. However, as the compound is acrid and easily detectable by smell at low concentrations, inhalation exposure can generally be avoided. One potential source of exposure is fuming nitric acid, which spontaneously produces NO2 above 0 °C. Symptoms of poisoning (lung edema) tend to appear several hours after inhalation of a low but potentially fatal dose. Also, low concentrations (4 ppm) will anesthetize the nose, thus creating a potential for overexposure.

There is some evidence that long-term exposure to NO2 at concentrations above 40–100 µg/m3 may decrease lung function and increase the risk of respiratory symptoms.[1]

Nitrogen dioxide is formed in most combustion processes using air as the oxidant. At elevated temperatures nitrogen combines with oxygen to form nitric oxide:

O2 + N2 → 2 NO

Nitric oxide can be oxidized in air to form nitrogen dioxide. At normal atmospheric concentrations this is a very slow process.

2 NO + O2 → 2 NO2

The most important sources of NO2 are internal combustion engines,[2] thermal power stations and, to a lesser extent, pulp mills. Butane gas heaters and stoves are also sources. The excess air required for complete combustion of fuels in these processes introduces nitrogen into the combustion reactions at high temperatures and produces nitrogen oxides (NOx). Limiting NOx production demands the precise control of the amount of air used in combustion. In households, kerosene heaters and gas heaters are sources of nitrogen dioxide.

Nitrogen dioxide is also produced by atmospheric nuclear tests, and is responsible for the reddish colour of mushroom clouds.[citation needed]

Nitrogen dioxide is a large scale pollutant, with rural background ground level concentrations in some areas around 30 µg/m3, not far below unhealthy levels. Nitrogen dioxide plays a role in atmospheric chemistry, including the formation of tropospheric ozone. A 2005 study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, suggests a link between NO2 levels and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.[3]

Nitrogen dioxide is also produced naturally during electrical storms. The term for this process is "atmospheric fixation of nitrogen". The rain produced during such storms is especially good for the garden as it contains trace amounts of fertilizer. (Henry Cavendish 1784, Birkland -Eyde Process 1903, et-al)


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