Question Video: Determining Which Product Could Not Be Produced from the Reaction of Nitrogen and Oxygen Chemistry

Nitrogen and oxygen in the air can combine in a series of reactions to produce a variety of nitrogen oxides. Using the concept of conservation of elements, determine which of the following could not be a possible product of these reactions? [A] N₂O₃ [B] HNO₃ [C] NO₂ [D] N₂O₅ [E] NO

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Video Transcript

Nitrogen and oxygen in the air can combine in a series of reactions to produce a variety of nitrogen oxides. Using the concept of conservation of elements, determine which of the following could not be a possible product of these reactions? (A) N2O3, (B) HNO3, (C) NO2, (D) N2O5, or (E) NO.

All chemical reactions must obey the concept of conservation of elements. This means that atoms of elements cannot be created or destroyed during a chemical reaction. In other words, all elements which appear in the reactants or starting materials must also appear in the products and vice versa.

In this question, we are told that nitrogen and oxygen in the air can combine in a series of reactions to produce a variety of nitrogen oxides. Using what we know about the conservation of elements, we need to determine which of the answer choices could not be a possible product. Nitrogen and oxygen in the air are the reactants or starting materials of this reaction. Nitrogen in the air consists of two nitrogen atoms and is represented by capital N subscript two. Oxygen in the air consists of two oxygen atoms and is represented by capital O subscript two. So the reactants only contain the elements nitrogen, chemical symbol capital N, and oxygen, chemical symbol capital O.

Since all elements which appear in the reactants must also appear in the products and vice versa, nitrogen oxides can only contain the elements nitrogen and oxygen, although the number of nitrogen and oxygen atoms represented here by the subscripts 𝑥 and 𝑦 will differ depending on the variety of nitrogen oxide.

Looking at the answer choices, we can see that each contains the elements nitrogen and oxygen. However, the product shown in answer choice (B) also contains the element hydrogen. Since we have established that nitrogen oxides can only contain the elements nitrogen and oxygen, answer choice (B) cannot be a possible product of this reaction because it contains the element hydrogen. So the substance which could not be a possible product of the reaction between nitrogen and oxygen to produce a variety of nitrogen oxides is the substance shown in answer choice (B), HNO3.

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