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Uses of Nitrates

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Science Lab Bobby Bowman December 3 In the English language, even the slightest variation of spelling can change the meaning of a word completely. The words condemn and commend may look alike, but their meanings are opposites. The words nitrates and nitrites may look alike, but that one vowel change completely alters their meaning. The same happens with the words sulfate and sulfite, and phosphate and phosphite. Even the composition of the ions is similar: Nitrate, NO3- to Nitrite, NO2-; Sulfate, SO42- to Sulfite, SO32-; and Phosphate, PO43- to Phosphite, PO33-. That one modification of oxygen atoms entirely changes the ion. Nitrates are very valuable in the world for many different reasons. Nitrates are used in some medicines, and in photographic films. Nitrates are also used in fireworks, and other explosives. The most widely use for Nitrate is in fertilizers. ...read more.


It wasn't until the 1800s that chemists began to use then-recently synthesized compounds that, in the right mixtures, burned in reds, greens, even blues and purples, and that the colors we traditionally ascribe to fireworks began to show up in night skies. Today, fireworks makers rely on compounds such as barium nitrate, strontium carbonate or nitrate, sodium oxalate, and copper carbonate. The chief use of Nitrate is in fertilizers. Anyone who has grown a garden, maintained a lawn, or kept houseplants knows that it is necessary to apply a fertilizer to the soil to keep cultivated plants healthy. As they grow, plants extract nutrients they need from the soil. Unless these nutrients are replenished, plants will eventually cease to grow. Ammonium is made up of nitrogen and hydrogen, three particles of hydrogen for each particle of nitrogen. (NH3-). Shortly after the ammonium reaches the soil, it binds to soil or organic matter. ...read more.


Nitrites are completely different from Nitrates. Nitrites used in heart remedies and making dyes in cured meats, such as bacon, to prevent botulism, and to give meat a pink color. Amyl nitrite was discovered in 1857 and was being used ten years later as a treatment for angina (a heart condition) due to its ability to open up the vessels delivering blood to the heart. Amyl nitrite is now hardly ever prescribed as a medicine (if at all) as it has been superseded by longer acting and more effective medicines. Butyl nitrite is very similar to amyl nitrite but produces slightly less potent effects. When used in meats, nitrate itself is harmless, it is readily converted to nitrite. When nitrite combines with compounds called secondary amines, it forms nitrosamines. This is an extremely powerful cancer-causing chemical. The chemical reaction occurs most readily at the high temperatures of frying. Nitrite has long been suspected as being a cause of stomach cancer. Zinc sulfate is used in surgery as an antiseptic, in calico printing, and in making drying oils for varnishes. ...read more.

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