Nitrogen is a chemical element
Chemical element
A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead.As of November 2011, 118 elements...

 that has the symbol N, atomic number
Atomic number
In chemistry and physics, the atomic number is the number of protons found in the nucleus of an atom and therefore identical to the charge number of the nucleus. It is conventionally represented by the symbol Z. The atomic number uniquely identifies a chemical element...

 of 7 and atomic mass
Atomic mass
The atomic mass is the mass of a specific isotope, most often expressed in unified atomic mass units. The atomic mass is the total mass of protons, neutrons and electrons in a single atom....

 14.00674 u
Atomic mass unit
The unified atomic mass unit or dalton is a unit that is used for indicating mass on an atomic or molecular scale. It is defined as one twelfth of the rest mass of an unbound neutral atom of carbon-12 in its nuclear and electronic ground state, and has a value of...

. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert
-Chemistry:In chemistry, the term inert is used to describe a substance that is not chemically reactive.The noble gases were previously known as inert gases because of their perceived lack of participation in any chemical reactions...

Diatomic molecules are molecules composed only of two atoms, of either the same or different chemical elements. The prefix di- means two in Greek. Common diatomic molecules are hydrogen , nitrogen , oxygen , and carbon monoxide . Seven elements exist in the diatomic state in the liquid and solid...

 gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention , and reducing temperature extremes between day and night...

. The element nitrogen was discovered as a separable component of air, by Scottish physician Daniel Rutherford
Daniel Rutherford
Daniel Rutherford was a Scottish physician, chemist and botanist who is most famous for the isolation of nitrogen in 1772.Rutherford was the uncle of the novelist Sir Walter Scott.-Early life:...

, in 1772.

Many industrially important compounds, such as ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

, nitric acid
Nitric acid
Nitric acid , also known as aqua fortis and spirit of nitre, is a highly corrosive and toxic strong acid.Colorless when pure, older samples tend to acquire a yellow cast due to the accumulation of oxides of nitrogen. If the solution contains more than 86% nitric acid, it is referred to as fuming...

, organic nitrates (propellant
A propellant is a material that produces pressurized gas that:* can be directed through a nozzle, thereby producing thrust ;...

s and explosives), and cyanide
A cyanide is a chemical compound that contains the cyano group, -C≡N, which consists of a carbon atom triple-bonded to a nitrogen atom. Cyanides most commonly refer to salts of the anion CN−. Most cyanides are highly toxic....

s, contain nitrogen.