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The Oxidation State of Nitrogen Is Most Positive In Which Compound?

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The Oxidation State of Nitrogen Is Most Positive In Which Compound?

This is an SAT Chemistry question from 1998 SAT Chemistry test.

a. NO3^-1

b. NO2^-1

c. N2O

d. N2

e. NH3

Answer and Explanation:

Lets first go over some rules for assigning the oxidation number.

  • Free element has an oxidation number of 0. For example, O2, Fe, Cl2 etc all have oxidation numbers of zero. Therefore, nitrogen in choice d has an oxidation number of 0

  • All oxidation numbers in a neutral compound add up to 0. For example, lets solve N2O. Oxygen has an oxidation number of -2 as can be seen on the periodic table (group 16 is mostly -2 oxidation number). Lets now make an equation since we dont know nitrogen, we will make it x. 2x+ (-2) = 0. Therefore, x=+1. Let's solve choice e the same way. Hydrogen is +1 unless with a metal. Thus, we get x+1*3=0, x= -3. Choice e can be eliminated.

  • All oxidation number of a charged compound must add up to its charge. Lets now solve choices a and b. Choice a's equation becomes x+(-2*3)= -1 x=+5 Choice b is x+(-2*2)= -1 x=+4. We can now see that choice A must be the correct answer since it gave us positive five charge for the nitrogen.

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