Education

A Brief Introduction on Nitrates

Nitrates

Chemistry comprises an ocean of compounds with different atoms and molecules. The combination of various elements, atoms, and molecules forms a wide range of compounds. We come across different compounds such as amines, acids, bases, salts, amides, aldehydes, alcohols, nitrites, and nitrates. This article will highlight the basic facts and concepts of the most essential compound of chemistry which is nitrate. 

What are nitrates?

Nitrates are a class of inorganic compounds that consist of nitrogen and oxygen molecules. These compounds are made up of a nitrogen atom and two oxygen atoms. The oxidation number of nitrogen in nitrites is +3. The molecular formula of nitrate is NO3- and its molecular weight is 62 g/mol. Nitrate is a nitrogen oxoanion that is formed by the loss of a proton from nitric acid (HNO3). These substances are inorganic non-metallic compounds comprising a nitrate as its largest oxoanion. Few examples of nitrate compounds are ammonium nitrate, potassium nitrate, sodium nitrate, etc. 

Sources of nitrate

Nitrates are naturally found on earth in the form of salts or the atmosphere. 

  • The nitrate salts are found basically on earth as large deposits in the form of nitratine, which is a major source of nitrate salt named sodium nitrate.
  • Nitrates are produced by a wide number of bacteria in the natural environment. These bacteria use ammonia or urea as the major source of nitrogen. 
  • During the rainy season or in thunder or storm when lightning strikes, then the nitrogen-oxygen rich atmosphere form a mixture of oxides of nitrogen which develop nitrous ions and nitrate ions that are washed from the atmosphere by rain. 
  • Nitrates are produced industrially from one of the mineral acids called nitric acid.
  • Solid nitrates are not much abundant in nature as they are soluble. They can be found in places nitrogen-containing groundwater is evaporating.

Vital nitrate compounds 

Nitrate compounds play an important role in the day-to-day activities and also in chemical reactions in industries. Listed below are few examples of nitrate compounds that are useful in our daily life

  • Silver nitrate: Silver nitrate is a chemical compound and its formula is AgNO3. It is used to prepare a precipitate of silver halides when treated with halide ions. It is also used for the treatment and the removal of unwanted warts in human beings.
  • Sodium Nitrate: Sodium nitrate is an inorganic compound with the formula NaNO3. The compound is majorly used as a food additive since it acts as a preservative. Also used in solar power plants to store and transfer heat.
  • Potassium Nitrate: Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula KNO3. It is used in toothpaste to relieve the sensation of pain in gums and teeth. It is an essential ingredient in fertilizers as it consists of all the macronutrients needed for the plants to grow. 
  • Calcium nitrate: The chemical formula of the compound is Ca(NO3)2. It is used as a basic raw material in the preparation of other nitrate compounds. It is used in the storage of crops, fruits and vegetables. 

Nitrates in food

Nitrates taken in limited quantities in our food have major health benefits. Yet it also has some adverse effects when consumed in large quantities. In food, nitrates are found in food substances such as bacon, ham, sausages, green leafy vegetables, and hot dogs.

Uses of nitrates to the human body:

  • Nitrates help to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in our bodies. 
  • Nitrates help in the circulation of nutrients from the digestive system into the blood, later to saliva and again to blood.
  • Nitrates contribute directly or indirectly to maintain the health and digestive system. Harmful effects of nitrates on the human body
  • Consuming too much quantity of nitrates can affect blood circulation in infants. 
  • One can have the symptoms of anaemia, cardiovascular disease, lung disease. 

Nitrates play a vital role in every sector such as food storage, preservative, fertilizers, human health, etc. Calcium nitrate is good water-soluble fertilizer for plants with a rich amount of calcium and nitrogen.  Any chemical compound in limited use is beneficial to human health but in large quantities may give rise to adverse effects. Nitrates are the essential class of chemical compounds and comprise some essential properties which can be utilized in many fields. 

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