How Is Nitrogen Produced for Industrial Applications?
April 17, 2018
Nitrogen gas is one of the most abundant compounds available in the air. It makes up about 78 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. Being such an abundant compound, nitrogen is applied in a variety of industrial uses from the food industry to drug manufacturing. But what is nitrogen gas really, how is nitrogen purified, and how is nitrogen used?
What Is Nitrogen Gas?
Nitrogen gas is a compound that forms from elemental nitrogen, which is found abundantly throughout the planet’s atmosphere and in most biochemical reactions. One of nitrogen’s unique properties is its ability to form multiple bonds with various other elements and compounds. This has made it incredibly versatile. Nitrogen compounds can be found in just about every industry and are used in many forms to carry out tasks ranging from oxidation prevention to surgical anesthesia.
Industrial Uses of Nitrogen
As mentioned, nitrogen has become a primary choice in numerous industries, including but not limited to:
- Packaging in the food industry to prevent oxidation and spoilage of food.
- Used to make transistors, circuits and diodes.
- In the form of nitrous oxide, nitrogen is used in SCUBA gear and in surgery as an anesthetic.
- In manufacturing steel to prevent oxidation.
- Welding and metalworking to prevent oxides and waste compound formation.
- As a cheaper alternative to argon in light bulb manufacturing.
- Nitrous oxide is used as a propellant in jet fuel, and professional motor racing.
This is just a short list of the many uses that nitrogen has. Without a doubt, nitrogen is a vital component of many businesses, making it an extremely important resource to provide.
How to Prepare Nitrogen Gas for Industrial Application
The industrial preparation of nitrogen can be undertaken using two methods: fractional distillation and mechanical means.
Fractional distillation is an energy-intensive process that cools the air to a liquid form and then separates the nitrogen from other compounds using differential boiling points. This method for the industrial production of nitrogen yields an extremely high purity (about 99.9995 percent).
Mechanical generation is a form of nitrogen production that can be done two ways: through semipermeable hollow fiber membrane filtration or pressure swing absorption (PSA).
Membrane filtration uses tiny semipermeable hollow fiber tube filters to separate compounds in the air based on speed and weight. The process of using a nitrogen separation membrane is fast and consumes less energy than fractional distillation, but provides a lower grade of purity (about 90 to 99.9 percent).
Pressure swing absorption (PSA) is a more complicated process. It uses specialized materials carbon molecular sieve (CMS) that can attract the wanted compound based on various molecular properties and separate it from unwanted compounds. Using a PSA nitrogen generator will provide a high purity (95 to 99.9995 percent).
Once the nitrogen is separated using one of these techniques, it can be stored for use on future nitrogen gas applications. With gaseous nitrogen storage, there are no hazmat, special handling, safety or insurance issues.
If you are looking for a company that specializes in the industrial preparation of nitrogen gas, then look no further.