Are there any "safe" method that allows converting the nitrogen into oxygen?

There's Ernest Rutherford that uses alpha particles aimed at the nitrogen to create oxygen and hydrogen.

But are there any other methods for the conversion?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well, it does require a nuclear reaction such as the 14N($\alpha$,p)17O reaction you indicate. What really are you looking for. (As a side note, the PMS Blackett paper - Proceedings of the Royal Society 107 (742) 349-360 - should be required reading for all graduate students. He looked through 415000 cloud chamber photographs to find the 8 events he discusses.) $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Jul 18 '18 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ I'm just interested in the methods and wanted to understand more about it. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Mana Jul 18 '18 at 15:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What do you mean by 'safe'? $\endgroup$ – tfb Jul 18 '18 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ Related. $\endgroup$ – rob Jul 18 '18 at 20:06

While seeming simple on the surface, this request is quite broad. What $N$ isotopes to start, what $O$ isotopes to finish? What particles do you have available to do nuclear reactions with? ANd, finally, what is considered 'doable', which I will take as some measured path with some measured cross-section.

The 'full' answer lies in getting nuclear reaction data. Three good places to start are:

Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory - their Nuclear Data Project has compiled nuclear energy level diagrams for A = 3 through 20. Going to A=16 and selecting the Isobar diagram shows multiple paths that could end in $^{16}O$.

Evaluated Nuclear Structure Data File - hosted at Brookhaven, you can search for reaction data on any number of reactions ending in some $O$ isotope.

Evaluated Nuclear Data Files - also hosted at Brookhaven, provides cross sections for a variety of nuclear reactions. While mostly neutron data, it also covers some nuclear reactions.

So, what are some options?

$^{14}N$ ($\alpha$,p) $^{16}O$ was the first observed nuclear reaction (noted in Rutherford's notebooks, detailed in the PMS Beckett paper noted in comments above).

$^{16}N$ $\beta$ decay (although that just leads to the question of where did the $^{16}N$ come from. Neutron absorption starting from $^{14}N$ or $^{15}N$ might get you there - the cross section is pretty small though).

$^{15}N$ (D,n) $^{16}O$ or $^{15}N$ ($^{3}He$,D) $^{16}O$ are options.

$^{14}N$ ($^{3}He$,p) $^{16}O$ works.

And there are many more...

But most of them have pretty darn small cross sections to occur. If you are intending to manufacture oxygen from nitrogen, I would investigate other business opportunities!

| cite | improve this answer | |

Using neutron capture, you can convert N-15 to N-16, and N-16 will decay predominantly to O-16 with a half life of 7.13 s.

| cite | improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ The cross section is $10^{-5}$ barns which is pretty small though. At least the cross section for converting from 14N to 15N with thermal neutrons is 1 barn, so you can breed the 15N faster than you use it up... $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Jul 18 '18 at 18:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.