Difference Between Nitrate vs. Nitrite

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Main Difference

Both these words, Nitrate and Nitrite are used interchangeably as they have quite the similar pronunciation and spellings. They share many similarities and that is why they sometimes get intermix. Both of them are the inorganic chemical compounds that have composition of nitrogen and oxygen. The number of oxygen atoms in them actually bring out the difference as it changes their structure, shape and function. Nitrites have two oxygen atoms and one nitrogen, while nitrates have three oxygen atoms and a nitrogen atom. As there is only the difference of oxygen atom, a nitrate can become nitrite and the reverse can also happen as well. A nitrate can become nitrite with undergoing the process of reduction, whereas nitrites can become nitrate with undergoing the process of oxidization. Nitrate ions form nitric acid, which turns out to be a strong acid, on the other hand, nitrite ions form nitrous acid, which turns out to be a weaker acid.

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Comparison Chart

BasisNitrateNitrite
Number of AtomsNitrate is made up of three Oxygen atom and one Nitrogen atom.Nitrite is made up of one Nitrogen atom and two Oxygen atoms.
Oxidation Number of NitrogenIn Nitrate the oxidation number of Nitrogen in +5.In nitrite the oxidation number of Nitrogen is +3.
Acid FormedNitrate ions form nitric acid, which turns out to be a strong acid.Nitrite ions form nitrous acid, which turns out to be a weaker acid.
UsageThe most common usages of nitrates are that they are used as an important component in the fertilizers and explosives.One of the most prominent usage of nitrites is that it is used as the useful component for food preservation.
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What is Nitrate?

Nitrate is the polyatomic ion that is made up of nitrogen and oxygen. The ‘N’ in the beginning of ‘nitrate’ suggest the influence of Nitrogen atoms influence and dominate over the ion. It is made up of three Oxygen atom and one Nitrogen atom, and is highly stable as compare to the nitrite, and even the acid made from it, nitric acid is a strong acid. The most common usages of nitrates are that they are used as an important component in the fertilizers and explosives. Nitrate is essential for the growth of plants and before the stable industry of fertilizers, the livestock fecal matter was used for the growth of the plants as a fertilizer. The complete cycle beginning from bacteria’s consumption of nitrogen from the atmosphere and then decaying of bacteria which results as absorbing of nitrate by the plants and later animal eat the plants and further passes on the nitrate through their feces. The structure of the nitrate ion makes it quite a more stable as it shapes like the trigonal planar geometry, the Nitrogen is present in the center and is bonded to the three oxygen atoms.

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What is Nitrite?

Nitrite is the polyatomic ion that is made up of nitrogen and oxygen. The actual difference between nitrate and nitrite is that nitrite is made up of one Nitrogen atom and two Oxygen atoms. The structure it has makes nitrite ion less stable than the nitrate ions. Although, a nitrate can become nitrite with undergoing the process of reduction, whereas nitrites can become nitrate with undergoing the process of oxidization. The molecular formula of nitrite is NO2, and has a structure with Nitrogen atom between the two Oxygen atoms. It has a bent molecular geometry molecular shape. One of the most prominent usage of nitrites is that it is used as the useful component for food preservation. They have a strong ability to work as an antagonist against the bacteria that is why it is used in the process of curation of meat. It keeps the bacteria away from the meat and also have effect of turning the meat into reddish color.

Nitrate vs. Nitrite

  • Nitrate is made up of three Oxygen atom and one Nitrogen atom, whereas Nitrite is made up of one Nitrogen atom and two Oxygen atoms.
  • In Nitrate the oxidation number of Nitrogen in +5, whereas in nitrite the oxidation number of Nitrogen is +3.
  • Nitrate ions form nitric acid, which turns out to be a strong acid, on the other hand, nitrite ions form nitrous acid, which turns out to be a weaker acid.
  • The most common usages of nitrates are that they are used as an important component in the fertilizers and explosives, on the other hand, nitrite is used as a preserving agent of various foods.
  • A nitrate can become nitrite with undergoing the process of reduction, whereas nitrites can become nitrate with undergoing the process of oxidization.