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As reported in the January 18, 2002 edition of Science at the Sapienza University of Rome, Fulvio Cacace and his colleagues created a new nitrogen molecule known as tetranitrogen, with the structure N4. The structure, stability and properties of this molecule have been of great interest to research scientists in the last ten years.[1]


Tetranitrogen is an unstable polynitrogen molecule with a lifetime of about a microsecond. At room temperature, it exists in the gas state. The structure consists of two closely bound N2 units connected by a longer weak bond. Due to its instability, the N4 molecule readily disassociates into two more stable N2 molecules. This process is very exothermic, releasing ~800 kJ mol−1 of energy.[1]

Preparation and detection[edit]

Because tetranitrogen is so short-lived, preparing and detecting the molecule has been challenging to researchers. The approach that has proved most successful of producing a long-lived gaseous N4 species is the reduction of the gaseous N4+ molecule by neutralization-reionization (NR)-mass spectrometry.The neutral N4 species had a lifetime in excess of the flight time from the neutralization to the reionization cell which is ~1μs.[1]


Tetranitrogen may be useful in such applications as propellants and explosives due to its ability to release a large amount of energy when it breaks apart.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ F. Cacace, G. de Petris, A. Troiani. Experimental Detection of Tetranitrogen. Science 2002, 295, 480-481. doi:10.1126/science.1067681
  2. ^ J.G. "A New Molecule and a New Signature - Chemistry - Tetranitrogen - Brief Article." Science News. 16 Feb. 2002.

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