nitric oxide

Colourless, toxic gas (NO), formed from nitrogen and oxygen by the action of electric sparks or high temperatures or, more conveniently, by the action of dilute nitric acid on copper or mercury. First prepared circa 1620 by Jan B. Helmont, it was first studied in 1772 by Joseph Priestley, who called it “nitrous air.” An industrial procedure for the manufacture of hydroxylamine is based on the reaction of nitric oxide with hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst. The formation of nitric oxide from nitric acid and mercury is applied in a volumetric method of analysis for nitric acid or its salts. The gas is synthesized via enzyme-catalyzed reactions in humans and other animals, where it serves as a signaling molecule. Among its numerous biological roles, it causes dilation of blood vessels and as such is an important regulator of blood pressure. Nitric oxide is one of the components of air pollution generated by internal-combustion engines.

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or laughing gas

Inorganic compound, one of the oxides of nitrogen. A colourless gas with a pleasantly sweetish odour and taste, it has an analgesic effect when inhaled; it is used as an anesthetic (often called just “gas”) in dentistry and surgery. This effect is preceded by mild hysteria, sometimes with laughter, hence the name laughing gas. It is also used as a propellant in food aerosols and as a leak detector.

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Inorganic compound, a highly toxic, colourless, odourless, flammable gas, chemical formula CO. It is produced when carbon (including coal and coke) or carbon-containing fuel (including petroleum hydrocarbons; e.g., gasoline, fuel oil) does not burn completely to carbon dioxide, because of insufficient oxygen. CO is present in the exhaust gases of internal combustion engines and furnaces. It is toxic because it binds to hemoglobin in blood much more strongly than does oxygen and thus interferes with transport of oxygen from lungs to tissues (see hypoxia; respiration). Symptoms of CO poisoning range from headache, nausea, and syncope to coma, weak pulse, respiratory failure, and death. CO is used industrially as a fuel and in synthesis of numerous organic compounds, including methanol, ethylene, and aldehydes.

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A monoxide is any oxide containing just one atom of oxygen in the molecule. For example, Potassium oxide (K2O), has only one atom of oxygen, and is thus a monoxide. Water (H2O) is also a monoxide; see Dihydrogen monoxide hoax.

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