What is Nitrogen Anyway?
Nitrogen (chemical symbol N) makes up about 78% of our atmosphere and as such it is an inert gas meaning that it does not react chemically with other elements, compounds or mixtures under normal conditions. It has 7 stable isotopes which account for 29.6% of all naturally occurring nitrogen so it is the second most abundant element in air.
Nitrogen, when cooled to its liquid state (-346 degrees Fahrenheit), changes into a beautiful blue color that reminds one of rainy days on fields or an open sky full of clear, untouched clouds where you can spot the gentle rays of sunlight breaking through.
This gas does not react with most elements. It is a clear, odorless, colorless and tasteless gas which makes it fairly intimidating to work with because of the lack of warning signs when mishandling with most chemicals.
Nitrogen has an abundance in our atmosphere but it can be found in other places too such as in saltwater where it is normally bonded with oxygen to form a salt.
Nitrogen, in its gaseous state is colorless and odorless which makes it a rather ideal gas for filling tires because the lack of knowledge of gas leaks will save lives.
Is Nitrogen Better than Compressed Air?
The Answer is Diplomatic! Yes and No
Nitrogen is better than air for tires . It will not make your car faster, but it can increase your tire life and reduce your risk of a flat.
The reason nitrogen is better than “normal” air is that it tends to be more consistent from fill to fill. Air can have a lot of moisture in it, which is bad for your tire pressure and your tire life.
Nitrogen contains less moisture than air about 78 percent less, according to the Tire Industry Association’s web site . The Tire Industry Association actually recommends nitrogen inflation. “Nitro-miser” is an example of a machine that can fill your tires with nitrogen.
Nitrogen inflation may not be worth it for some people, but if you’re having the air in your tires regularly checked or filled at a gas station, then go ahead and pony up the extra few dollars to have them filled with nitrogen instead.
Does Nitrogen Effect Fuel Efficiency?
It’s a common belief that putting nitrogen in your tires can improve gas mileage and offer some other benefits. The reason is that air has different density at different temperatures, which makes it expand or contract under different temperatures.
Nitrogen, like most gases, expands when heated and either contracts or stays the same size when cooled. By using nitrogen in your tires, you are more likely to have the same pressure in them no matter the ambient temperature.
Nitrogen is also thought to reduce wheel corrosion because it doesn’t expand as much when exposed to moisture.
Since there’s a lot of debate over the use of nitrogen in tires, we’ve outlined some of the points you should consider before making your decision.
Tire Pressure Retention:
One advantage to filling tires with nitrogen is that it helps keep your tire pressure at a consistent level. Since nitrogen is an inert gas and doesn’t expand or contract over time like oxygen does, it helps keep your tire pressure steady, which can save you money on fuel costs and improve your gas mileage.
Improved Fuel Economy:
A 2009 Indiana State Police test found that cars using compressed air were 1% less efficient than those using nitrogen.
Decreased Tire Degradation:
Over time, air absorbs moisture from the atmosphere and causes the rubber in your tires to become brittle and crack. Nitrogen tire inflation can help decrease your chances of a flat tire because it inhibits oxidation and ozone deterioration, which is one reason why NASA opted for nitrogen over compressed air when launching the space shuttles. The space shuttle has over 6,000 nitrogen tire inflation systems on board to prevent blowouts in orbit .
Nitrogen Filled Tires: Do They Make a Difference?
Here’s what you need to know about whether or not you should inflate your tires with nitrogen.
Even though NASA’s findings regarding tire degradation were interesting, their main reason for using nitrogen was to decrease blow outs while the shuttle was in space. However, a study from Denmark found that if you’re driving on a road with potholes and debris, a tire filled with compressed air could have a greater risk of being punctured or damaged compared to one filled with nitrogen.
It’s the Same Price:
If you’re looking to save money on tire inflation, nitrogen is not your answer. The price of filling tires with nitrogen (and even installing nitrogen valves) is roughly the same as filling them with compressed air.
Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS):
Some people believe that if you have a tire pressure monitoring system, you don’t need to fill your tires with nitrogen because the TPMS already has sensors in place that will alert you if there’s an issue. However, this is not true. Even if your TPMS indicates the perfect tire pressure, it may be incorrect since it doesn’t have access to nitrogen.
Aircrafts also Uses N to minimize contractions.
If you unsure of what types of tires you should opt for. We can Surely Help!
When Was Nitrogen First Used in Tires?
In 1845, Belgian physicist Adrien-Jean-Joseph-Henri Moissan discovered nitroglycerin. In 1902 Charles Franklin Kettering invented a way to restrain the energy of nitro so that it became safer to handle and more useful as an explosive.
Later in 1920, after experimenting with various other chemicals, Roy J. Plunkett of Kinetic Chemicals, Incorporated turned his attention to liquefying all known gasses. On April 6th he discovered a colorless liquid that would not burn and was later given the name “Freon.” His work with the gas led him to attempt to condense it into a liquid propellant.
On July 31st, 1926, working in his lab at General Motors, Plunkett pressurized a sample of the liquefied gas with about 700 pounds per square inch of pressure. When he opened the valve, however, nothing came out. He quickly closed the valve and found that the pressure gauge still registered 700 pounds per square inch. Puzzled by this development, he decided to ship the container back to the Kinetic Chemicals plant in Dayton, Ohio.
When it arrived there, however, workers found that the container had lost about one fourth of its weight. The yield of gas was so great that an inner iron bottle collapsed at a pressure far below what would have ruptured the outer steel chamber. The success of that experiment led GM to develop the first air-filled pneumatic tire, which was introduced on a Cadillac in 1912.
Since there’s no clear winner between the two, your best bet is to fill up your tires with nitrogen if you want to decrease tire degradation or decrease accidents. Otherwise, it doesn’t make too much of a difference .
Of all of the common gases used in tire inflation, nitrogen is considered one of the least expensive and most popular. While it’s true that the price of nitrogen versus all other gases is relatively low, it’s also true that if you want to fill your tires with something besides air, it won’t be much more expensive than filling them with plain old compressed air .