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Why Is The Ionization Energy Of Oxygen Lower Than Nitrogen?

The ionization energy of oxygen is lower than nitrogen because oxygen has a greater tendency to gain electrons than nitrogen does.

The +6 oxidation state of oxygen is commonly represented by the peroxide ion (O2-). The molecule that makes up ozone, O3, has three oxygen atoms each bearing this charge. Chlorine gas (Cl2) also has six electrons in its outer shell, which it tries to fill by sharing an electron with a nearby molecule.

When chlorine comes near an atom with an incomplete outer shell like oxygen, it often steals an electron from it, leaving both atoms with fewer electrons than protons and leaving chlorine with eight total valence electrons (eight protons minus eight electrons). The resulting chloride ion (Cl-) is stable because its positive charge is balanced by eight negative charges on eight chloride ions.

On the other hand, nitrogen atoms are much more reluctant to share electrons. Nitrogen atoms have only three valence electrons compared to seven protons and would rather keep their extra one than share it with another atom’s incomplete outer shell. This makes nitride ions very unstable; any nitride ion you see will quickly react with something else before it can become stable.

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Last modified: October 4, 2022

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