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What is nitrogen used for?

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Quick Answer

Nitrogen is used by organisms in the form of nitrate to build DNA and RNA, and to construct amino acids. Commercially, nitrogen is used in the creation of steel and electronics.

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Full Answer

Nitrogen is an essential part of the mass-produced food industry, and is used to preserve perishable items and give them a longer shelf life. To keep foods refrigerated during long transports, liquid nitrogen is often included in the shipping containers. Liquid nitrogen is also used in creating missiles and to create pressure to harvest crude oil. Other forms of nitrogen are part of fertilizers, explosives, dyes and poisons. When electricity is added, ionized nitrogen gives off light in shades of purple, and can be used in signage, such as neon signs.

Nitrogen is an abundant resource that makes up 78 percent of the atmosphere, making it easy to harvest for these uses. Organisms can get nitrogen by eating other organic material, which microbes convert to usable nitrate. In its natural state, nitrogen is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that is mostly inert. In order to be a liquid, nitrogen has to be colder than -320 degrees F, and at temperatures lower than -346 degrees F it becomes a solid.

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