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Does Nitrogen Have Potential Energy?

does-nitrogen-have-potential-energy

ANSWER:

Nitrogen DOES have potential energy.

Potential energy when talking about elements often refers to their chemical potential. All matter that can potentially interact with other matter chemically has this chemical potential energy. In the case of nitrogen, it’s able to interact with other substances and combine into what are called nitrides. Although chemical potential energy can seem extremely complicated, there are a number of models that can explain them. If you’re an average learner, simply interested in knowing a bit of chemistry, then you’re in luck! It happens to be relatively simple.

What is Chemical Potential?

Chemical potential deals with how individual atoms will react in a system. It is a measure of how much energy this particular atom (or a series of atoms) could expel or absorb during a chemical reaction. The more reactive an item becomes with another element, the higher the chemical potential. Sodium, for instance, has a high chemical potential with water, as it tends to become extremely explosive during the interaction.

How Does Chemical Potential Work?

Like most other laws dealing with thermodynamics, chemical potential works from the highest concentration to the lowest concentration. A commonly used example to describe it is simple diffusion, described by kinetic theory. You should think of each atom of nitrogen as a small, bouncing ball. These balls are bouncing all around a sealed glass container placed within an empty room. They’re bouncing around, against each other. If you lift up the lid, all the bouncing balls would bounce off each other and consequently, exit the jar and bounce all around the room. This is simple diffusion at work, which is another indicator of chemical potential. The higher the temperature, the higher the activity of the particles, thus a higher chemical potential.

Nitrogen’s Chemical Potential

Nitrogen naturally forms with a number of different elements. Because of this and its gaseous nature, it’s easily concluded that nitrogen has a relatively respectable level of chemical potential–although it does vary depending on environmental factors. Chief amongst them is temperature.

 

Resources

 

University of Arizona-Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Gibbs Free Energy and Pressure, Chemical Potential, Fugacity
http://www.chem.arizona.edu/~salzmanr/480a/480ants/fugacity/fugacity.html

Florida State University-Quantum Mechanics for Engineers
Chemical Potential and Diffusion
http://www.eng.fsu.edu/~dommelen/quantum/style_a/cboxcpd.html

University of Maryland Department of Geology
Chemical Potential
http://www.geol.umd.edu/facilities/lmdr/chmpot.htm

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