in the second period. Its electronic configuration is [He]2s 2p . [He] means that the helium configuration is filled. The valence configuration represented by the 2, the L shell, shows five electrons in the orbitals: 2 electrons in the 5 orbitals and 3 electrons in the p orbitals. This means that, like phosphorus, nitrogen can have a maximum oxidation state of +5; its smallest oxidation state is 3-. Examples are nitrous oxide (N2O, 1+); nitric oxide (NO, 2+); dinitrogen trioxide (N2O3, 3+); nitrogen dioxide (NO2, 4+); dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4, 4+); and dinitrogen pentox-ide (N2O5, 5+). Our interest in nitrogen as it occurs in nature is in the form that makes it fertilizer to plants. These forms are the nitrites, nitrates, and ammonia. The nitrogen in ammonia exists in its smallest oxidation state of 3-; in nitrites, it exists as 3+, and in nitrates, it exists as 5+. These nitrogen species are utilized by algae as nutrients for growth. Also, because organic nitrogen hydrolyzes to ammonia, we will, in general, be concerned with this form of the nitrogen species.
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