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Nitrite Formula – Structure, Properties, Uses, Sample Questions

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  • Difficulty Level : Medium
  • Last Updated : 12 Apr, 2022
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Nitrogen is the chemical element with the symbol N and the atomic number 7 with electron configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p3. It belongs to the 15th group of the periodic table and it is a nonmetal. Nitrogen has the highest percentage in earth’s atmosphere approximately 78% of the atmosphere is nitrogen and the human body contains 3% of nitrogen by mass, it is a colorless, odorless gas, also important to the chemical industry. Nitrogen is mainly used in the making of fertilizers, nitric acid, nylon, dyes, and explosives.

Oxygen is the chemical element with the symbol O and the atomic number 8 with electron configuration is 1s22s22p4. It belongs to the 16th group and 2nd group and it belongs to the chalcogen group of the periodic table.  Oxygen is a highly reactive nonmetal. It is the earth’s most abundant element that is found in water, in most rocks and minerals, and in numerous organic compounds. It is a colorless, tasteless, odorless, diatomic gas constituting 21% of the atmosphere. It is essential for aerobic respiration and almost all combustion and is widely used in industry. Nitrite is a compound formed by nitrogen and oxygen, let’s learn about nitrite in detail,


Nitrite is an inorganic ion and it has a negative charge it contains one nitrogen and 2 oxygen atoms. It is also called a nitrite ion or nitrite anion, due to its negative charge, this ion is very unstable. It has a symmetric structure and looks like a colorless liquid or crystalline solid. Nitrite is popular to form bonds with metal in different ways. It is a component of many salts such as potassium nitrate and sodium nitrate. Nitrite levels in drinking water are usually below 0.1 mg/l. The main sources of nitrites are vegetables and cured meat and a small amount may be present in fish and dairy products.

Molecular Formula

The chemical formula of nitrite is NO2.

Structural Formula

Nitrite Structure

Physical Properties Of Nitrite

  • It has a molecular weight of 46.005 g/mol
  • it has the symmetric structure
  • its bond angle is 115°

Chemical Properties Of Nitrite

  • A nitrite ion is a type of Lewis base.
  • and its conjugate acid is nitrous acid.
  • The nitrite ion is very unstable under some conditions due to one negative charge.
  • As an example, we may see that the ingestion of sodium nitrite by humans can suffer a notarization chemical.

For example, potassium nitrite is a white deliquescent solid having melting and boiling points of 440°C and 537°C.

Acid-Base Properties

The conjugate base of weak acid nitrous acid is nitrite.

HNO2 <==> H+ + NO2

The nitrite ion is very unstable under some conditions due to one negative charge. Nitrous acid is also extremely is unstable in solution in terms of the disproportionation reaction

3HNO2 <==> H3O+ + NO3+ 2NO

Oxidation-Reduction properties

Reduction reaction with nitrite ion produces a variety of products. For example,

  1. With Sulphur dioxide, the products are NO and NO2.
  2. With hydrogen sulphide it produces NH3.
  3. The Nitrite reduction with the hydrazinium cation is acid HN3 it is an unstable and explosive compound

HNO2 + N2H5+ ⇢ HN3 + H2O + H3O+

The nitrogen atom in nitrite has a formal oxidation state of +3. This means it can be oxidized to+4 or+5 oxidation levels or reduced as low as 3. Whenever the nitrogen is in the oxidation state of +5 oxidation reactions usually result in the creation of the nitrite ion. For example, oxidation with permanganate ion can be used,

5NO2+ 2MNO4+ 6H+ ⇢  5NO3+ 2MN2+ 3H2O

Uses Of Nitrite

  1. It is used in pharmaceuticals, pesticides, chemical industries.
  2. It is used to relieve cardiac pain.
  3. It is used to cure meat because it prevents bacterial growth.

Sample Questions

Question 1: How do you test for nitrites?


A simple nitrite test can be performed by adding 4 M sulfuric acid to the sample until acidic and then adding 0.1 M iron(II) sulfate to the solution. A positive test for nitrite is indicated by a dark brown solution, arising from the iron-nitric oxide complex ion.

Question 2: What is the difference between nitrite and nitrate?


The main difference is the number of oxygen elements in nitrite and nitrate. Nitrite contains 2 oxygen atoms, nitrate contains 3  oxygen atoms. The formula of nitrite is NO2, the formula of nitrate is NO3

Question 3: How to perform the brown ring test?


It has the following steps,

  • Step 1: Take the solution of nitrate.
  • Step 2: Add iron(II) sulfate
  • Step 3: Slowly add concentrated (H2SO4) Sulphuric acid such that the acid added forms a layer below the aqueous solution.

Result: A ring brown in color will be formed at the junction of the 2 layers. This indicates the presence of nitrate ions.

Question 4: How to remove nitrite from a bacterial culture without harming it?


For this continuous dialysis against the nutrient medium either to waste or to a regeneration process that converted nitrite to nitrate.

Question 5: Why nitrite is toxic?


Bacteria in our saliva, stomach, and intestines convert nitrates into nitrites, and once the nitrates are converted into nitrites, it is primarily the nitrites that cause toxicity. 

Question 6: what are the uses of nitrite?


Nitrite is used in pharmaceuticals industries and it is used in pesticides and chemical industries. It is used to relieve cardiac pain
it is used to cure the meat because it prevent the bacterial growth

Question 7: What causes nitrates in water?


Nitrite levels in drinking water are often caused by groundwater contamination from animal waste run-off from dairies and feedlots excessive use of fertilizers. 

Question 8: How to remove nitrate from water?


It is possible to remove nitrate from water by using treatment processes such as ion exchange, distillation, and reverse osmosis. Nitrite is not removed by heating or boiling the water.

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