Difference Between Nitrogen and Nitrate

Nitrogen vs Nitrate

Nitrates are highly available anionic forms containing nitrogen. Naturally, nitrogen exists as a gas, and it is the main reservoir of nitrogen. This nitrogen cannot be directly utilized by the plants, so it is converted into water soluble forms like nitrates, nitrites or ammonium. Atmospheric nitrogen is converted to nitrate through industrial fixation, from the action of lightening and by some of the soil micro organisms. This process is known as nitrogen fixation. The ammonia and nitrites can also be converted to nitrate by the nitrifying bacteria in soil. The nitrates in the soil are then absorbed by plants for their activities. Moreover, soil nitrates can be again converted to nitrogen gas by the denitrifying bacteria like Thiobacillus denitrificans.


Nitrogen is the fourth most abundant element in our bodies. It is in the group 15 of the periodic table with the atomic number 7. Nitrogen is a non metal and its electron configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p3. The p orbital is half filled, giving nitrogen the capability to take three more electrons in order to achieve the stable noble gas configuration. Therefore, nitrogen is trivalent. Two nitrogen atoms can form a triple bond between them sharing three electrons form each. This diatomic molecule is in gas phase at room temperature, and forms a colorless, odorless, tasteless, inert gas. Nitrogen is a non flammable gas, therefore, do not support combustion. This is the highest containing gas in the earths’ atmosphere (about 78%). Naturally, there are two isotopes of nitrogen, N-14 and N-15. N-14 is more abundant having 99.6% abundance. At very low temperatures, nitrogen goes to the liquid state. It is similar to water in appearance, but the density is lower than water.

Nitrogen is widely used in chemical industries, and it is a vital component needed for living organisms. The most important commercial use of nitrogen is its use as a raw material for the ammonia, nitric acid, urea and other nitrogen compounds production. These compounds may incorporate in fertilizers, because nitrogen is one of the major elements, that is needed for plant growth. Nitrogen is also used in places, where an inert environment is needed, especially when doing chemical reactions. Liquid nitrogen is used for freezing things instantly and as a coolant in various devices (e.g.: computers).


Nitrate is a polyatomic anion containing nitrogen and three oxygen atoms. Nitrogen is in the +5 oxidation state. The atoms are arranged in a trigonal planar manner, and it shows resonance. This monovalent anion can join with any other type of cation to form various organic and inorganic compounds. Nitrate is water soluble and is abundant in nature in soil, water and food. Nitrates are primarily used to make fertilizers. It is also used to make explosives. Nitrates are relatively non-toxic. Inside our bodies, it can be turned into nitrites and therefore, it can be toxic.

What is the difference between Nitrogen and Nitrate?

- Nitrogen is an element, while nitrate is a compound of nitrogen and oxygen.

- Element nitrogen is not very reactive compared to nitrate.

- Nitrogen is trivalent, while nitrate is monovalent.