Nitrogen (N) Electron Configuration

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Orbit Electron Configuration of Nitrogen (N) atom is two electrons in first orbit (K) and 5 electrons in second orbit (L)

Orbital Electron Configuration of Nitrogen (N) atom is 1s2 2s2 2p3 which means Nitrogen atom have two electrons inside 1s orbital, two electron in 2s orbital and 3 electrons in 2p orbitals

Moreover as 2p subshell have orbitals 2px, 2py and 2pz therefore Orbital Electron Configuration of Nitrogen (N) can be written as 1s2 2s2 2px1 2py1 2pz1

Also we can replace 1s2 with [He], therefore electron configuration of Nitrogen (N) is [He] 2s2 2p3 or [He] 2s2 2px1 2py1 2pz1

N is the symbol for the element Nitrogen, which is located at top of group 17 of the periodic table. Nitrogen have total of seven electrons in its atomic structure. Nitrogen is fifth most abundant element in the universe and its existence was discovered by Scottish Physician Daniel Rutherford in 1772.

Moreover almost 78% of Earth’s atmosphere is just nitrogen gas. Also it’s one of major component of fertilisers which are used for growing large amount of agricultural stuff around the world. As production of food depends upon Nitrogen, therefore its quite crucial element for humanity.

Electron configuration refers to the arrangement of electrons in different orbits and orbitals of an atom in a certain order. Depending upon whether electrons are being arranged in Orbits or Orbitals there are two types of electron configurations – Orbit Electron Configuration and Orbital Electron Configuration.

In this article, I’ve discussed both Orbit and Orbital Electron Configurations of Nitrogen (N) atom.

Orbit Electron Configuration of Nitrogen (N)

Niels Bohr, a Danish scientist, was the first to propose the concept of an orbit around an atom. In 1913, he presented a model of the atom to the scientific community. As per this model, the electrons in an atom follow a set path as they go around the nucleus in circular motion.

These set paths are called “Orbits” and are numbered as 1, 2, 3, ……… depending upon their closeness to nucleus of atom. So first circular path around nucleus is numbered as 1, second as 2 and so no. Moreover orbits are also denoted by English letters.

  • First orbit – K and have n = 1
  • Second orbit – L and have n = 2
  • Third orbit – M and have n = 3
  • Fourth orbit – N and have n = 4
  • and so on.

How many electrons any of these orbits can hold is determined by using formula 2n2 where n is number of orbit. Based upon this formula, different orbits in the atom can hold electrons as following.

  • First orbit – K (n = 1) can hold 2n2 = 2 (1)2 = 2 electrons
  • Second orbit – L and have n = 2 can hold 2n2 = 2 (2)2 = 2 (4) = 8 electrons
  • Third orbit – M and have n = 3 can hold 2n2 = 2 (3)2 = 2 (9) = 18 electrons
  • Fourth orbit – N and have n = 4 can hold 2n2 = 2 (4)2 = 2 (16) = 32 electrons
  • and so on.

As Nitrogen atom have seven electrons, therefore it’s Orbit Electron Configuration will be two electrons in K orbit and five electrons in L orbit.

Orbit Electronic Configuration of Nitrogen N showing 2 electrons in K shell and 5 electrons in L shell

How many electron shells does Nitrogen have?

Nitrogen have electron configuration 2, 5 which means it have 2 electrons in K shell and 5 electrons in L shell. Therefore Nitrogen have 2 electron shells.

How many electrons does Nitrogen have in K shell?

2 electrons

How many electrons does Nitrogen have in L shell?

5 electrons

Orbital Electron Configuration of Nitrogen (N)

Niels Bohr proposed the idea that electrons revolve around nucleus in specific circular paths called Orbits, but later on Heisenberg found out that it’s impossible to determine position and velocity of an electron inside the atom at same time, so how it’s possible that electrons do circular motion on specific paths in an atom.

In later years, Erwin Schrodinger developed a mathematical formula to compute the probability of finding the location of an electron inside an atom.

On the basis of this probability, the location of an electron inside an atom could be represented as the chances of that electron being located in a certain three-dimensional area surrounding the nucleus.

As 3D region can be explained only using 3 parameters, therefore in order to describe where an electron is? inside the atom.

We need three numbers – Principle Quantum Number (n), Angular Momentum Number (l) and Magnetic Momentum Number (m).

Therefore Orbits(this concept was proposed by Neils Bohr) are further divided into sub-energy levels called subshells. How many subshells an orbit have is equal to Principle Quantum Number (n) of orbit.

Therefore

  • First Orbit (K and n = 1) have 1 subshell
  • Second Orbit (L and n = 2) have 2 subshell
  • Third Orbit (M and n = 3) have 3 subshell
  • Fourth Orbit (N and n = 4) have 4 subshell

These sub-energy levels/subshells have specific regions where probability of finding electrons is maximum. These subshells are names as s, p, d, f and have angular momentum numbers as 0, 1, 2 and 3 respectively.

Which type of subshell an orbit have can be determined using Angular Momentum Number (I).
So
If Principle Quantum Number of an orbit is n
Then subshells in that orbit are 0 to (n – 1)

If
Angular Momentum Number(l) = 0 that means it’s s orbital
Angular Momentum Number(l) = 1 that means it’s p orbital
Angular Momentum Number(l) = 2 that means it’s d orbital
Angular Momentum Number(l) = 3 that means it’s f orbital

First Orbit (K and n = 1)
Angular Momentum Number (l) = 0 to (1 – 1) = 0 (0 to 0)
Which means first orbit just have one subshell which is s

Second Orbit (L and n = 2)
Angular Momentum Number (l) = 0 to (2 – 1) = 1 (0 to 1)
Which means second orbit have two subshells which are s and p

Third Orbit (M and n = 3)
Angular Momentum Number (l) = 0 to (3 – 1) = 2 (0 to 2)
Which means third orbit have three subshells (0, 1, 2) which are s, p and d

Fourth Orbit (N and n = 4)
Angular Momentum Number (l) = 0 to (4 – 1) = 3 (0 to 3)
Which means fourth orbit have four subshells (0, 1, 2, 3) which are s, p, d and f

OrbitPrinciple Quantum NumberNumber of SubshellsSubshells
First Orbit (K)n = 111s
Second Orbit (L)n = 222s
2p
Third Orbit (M)n = 333s
3p
3d
Fourth Orbit (N)n = 444s
4p
4d
4f

These s, p, d and f subshells further have subregions which are called Orbitals, orbitals are just regions inside a subshell where probability of existence of an electron is quite high.

How many orbitals a subshell have depends upon it’s Angular Momentum Number (l) and can be calculated using formula.
Number of orbitals in a subshell = 2l + 1 where I is Angular Momentum Number of a subshell.

Therefore
s subshell (Angular Momentum Number l = 0)
Number of orbitals = 2(0) + 1 = 1
So s subshell just have one orbital

p subshell (Angular Momentum Number l = 1)
Number of orbitals = 2(1) + 1 = 3
So p subshell have three orbitals

d subshell (Angular Momentum Number l = 2)
Number of orbitals = 2(2) + 1 = 4 + 1 = 5
so d subshell have five orbitals

f subshell (Angular Momentum Number l = 3)
Number of orbitals = 2(3) + 1 = 6 + 1 = 7
so f subshell have seven orbitals

Moreover electron holding capacity of a subshell can be calculated using formula
Number of electrons which a subshell can hold = 2(2I + 1) where I is Angular Momentum Number of subshell

Therefore
s subshell (Angular Momentum Number l = 0)
Number of electrons it can hold = 2(2(0) + 1) = 2(1) = 2
So s subshell can hold maximum two electrons

p subshell (Angular Momentum Number l = 1)
Number of electrons it can hold = 2(2(1) + 1) = 2(3) = 6
So p subshell can hold maximum six electrons

d subshell (Angular Momentum Number l = 2)
Number of electrons it can hold = 2(2(2) + 1) = 2(4 + 1) = 2(5) = 10
so d subshell can hold maximum ten electrons

f subshell (Angular Momentum Number l = 3)
Number of electrons it can hold = 2(2(3) + 1) = 2(6 + 1) = 2(7) = 14
so f subshell can hold maximum fourteen electrons

SubshellAngular Momentum Number (I)Number of Orbitals in
Subshell (2l + 1)
Maximum Electrons Subshell can hold 2(2l + 1)
s012
p136
d2510
f3714

Summarising all this we can write energy levels in an atom as

1s
2s 2p
3s 3p 3d
4s 4p 4d 4f
5s 5p 5d 5f 5g

But next question which arises is “in which order these orbitals should be filled in to figure out electron configuration of an atom?”.

Like should 2 electrons be filled in 1s orbital first or 3p orbital first???

Well answer to this question is Aufbau Principle.

According to the Aufbau Principle, in the ground state of an ion or an atom, electrons first occupy the atomic orbitals of lowest energy levels before filling up in higher energy levels. What this indicates is that the orbital with the lower energy will be filled first, followed by the orbital with the greater energy.

As per this principle energy of any orbital depends upon sum of Principle Quantum Number (n) and Angular Quantum Number (l).
Therefore
Energy of Orbital = n + l

So lower the value of n + l is lower its energy.

OrbitalnIEnergy (n + l)
1s101
2s202
2p213
3s303
3p314
3d326
4s404
4p415
4d426
4f437

From the above table its clear that 4s have less energy than 3d, so it should be filled first.
Based upon the energies of orbitals as per Aufbau Principle, order of filling of orbitals is 1s 2s 2p 3s 3p 4s 3d 4p 5s 4d 5p 6s 4f 5d 6p 7s 5f 6d 7p 8s and so on.

It’s tricky to remember what’s order of filling of orbitals as per Aufbau Principle, so you can use below diagram for easily filling up orbitals. Just follow the arrows from top right corner to bottom left corner diagonally.

Order of filling orbitals in an atom as per Aufbau Principle
Aufbau Principle Filling Of Orbitals Order

Order of filling of orbitals as per Aufbau Principle is 1s 2s 2p 3s 3p 4s 3d 4p 5s 4d 5p 6s 4f 5d 6p 7s 5f 6d 7p 8s and so on.

As Nitrogen atom have seven electrons, therefore it’s electron configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p3 or 1s2 2s2 2px1 2py1 2pz1. Which means Nitrogen atom have 2 electrons each in its 1s, 2s orbitals and 3 electrons in 2p orbitals.

Orbital Electronic Configuration of Nitrogen N showing 1s2 2s2 2p3
NitrogenElectron Configuration
1s2 2s2 2p3

How do you write the electron configuration for nitrogen?

Nitrogen atom in total have seven electrons, to write down the electron configuration of nitrogen, the first two electrons would go into the 1s orbital. Because the 1s orbital can only accommodate two electrons, next two electrons are placed in the 2s orbital. The remaining three electrons would go in the 2p subshell orbitals. Putting all this together, electron configuration of nitrogen is 1s2 2s2 2p3. Which can also be written as [He] 2s2 2p3 where [He] represents electron configuration of noble gas Helium.

How many orbitals are in Nitrogen Atom?

Electron Configuration of nitrogen atom is 1s2 2s2 2p3 which means
Nitrogen Atom have
– 2 electrons in 1s subshell
– 2 electrons in 2s subshell
– 3 electrons in 2p subshell

1s subshell have just one orbital
2s subshell also just have one orbital
2p subshell have 3 orbitals

So in total nitrogen atom 1 + 1 + 3 = 5 orbitals

Therefore nitrogen atom have 5 orbitals.

Why Nitrogen have Electron Configuration 1s2 2s2 2px1 2py1 2pz1 and not 1s2 2s2 2px2 2py1 2pz0

Nitrogen in total have 7 electrons and filling of these electrons in different orbitals is done according to Aufbau Principle.

which states that in the ground state of an ion or an atom, electrons first occupy the atomic orbitals of lowest energy levels before filling up in higher energy levels. What this indicates is that the orbital with the lower energy will be filled first, followed by the orbital with the greater energy.

Therefore order of filling of orbitals is 1s 2s 2p 3s 3p 4s 3d 4p 5s 4d 5p 6s 4f 5d 6p 7s 5f 6d 7p 8s and so on. This order can be remembered by just using below diagram.

Order of filling orbitals in an atom as per Aufbau Principle
Aufbau Principle filling
of orbitals order

According to Aufbau Principle the first two electrons would go into the 1s orbital. Because the 1s orbital can only accommodate two electrons, next two electrons are placed in the 2s orbital. The remaining three electrons would go in the 2p subshell orbitals. Putting all this together, electron configuration of nitrogen is 1s2 2s2 2p3.

But 2p subshell have three different orbitals (2px, 2py and 2pz), each of which can accomodate 2 electrons. But in case of Nitrogen we just have 3 electrons which need to be filled in 2p subshell.

Therefore all possible combinations for allocating electrons in 2p subshell are

  • 2px1 2py1 2pz1
  • 2px2 2py1 2pz0
  • 2px0 2py2 2pz1
  • 2px1 2py0 2pz2

But out of all these possible allocations of electrons, just 2px1 2py1 2pz1 is possible. It’s because of Hund’s Rule.

Which states that every orbital in a subshell is singly occupied with one electron before any one orbital is doubly occupied, and all electrons in singly occupied orbitals have the same spin. Purpose of this rule is to ensure that there’s least amount of repulsion between electrons in a subshell and therefore atom is stable.

Due to this, electron configuration of Nitrogen atom is 1s2 2s2 2px1 2py1 2pz1 rather than 1s2 2s2 2px2 2py1 2pz0.

Because electrons in configuration 1s2 2s2 2px1 2py1 2pz1 will have less repulsion in between, therefore ensuring that atom is quite stable as compared to other versions of electron configurations in which 2p orbitals have multiple electrons in them before each of orbital have at least one electron.

Valence Electrons of Nitrogen (N)

Number of electrons in the last orbit of an element’s atom are called valence electrons.

As Nitrogen have electron configuration 1s2 2s2 2p3 so it’s last orbit is 2 (L shell which have Principle Quantum Number n = 2), as last orbit of Nitrogen have 5 electrons (2 in 2s and 3 in 2p subshell), therefore number of valence electrons in Nitrogen is five.

Nitrogen (N)5 valence electron

How many Valence Electrons does Nitrogen have?

Nitrogen have 5 valence electrons as it’s Orbital Electron Configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p3. As electron configuration shows, Nitrogen have 5 valence electrons located in 2s and 2p subshells.

Why Nitrogen cannot lose 5 of it’s valence electrons?

Nitrogen have electron configuration 1s2 2s2 2p3, there are 2 electrons in 2s subshell and 3 electrons in 2p subshell but in order to remove five valence electrons we will need extensive amount of energy.

Removing ElectronIonisation Energy (in kJ/mol unit)
N → N+ + e1402.3
N+ → N2+ + e2856
N2+ → N3+ + e4578.1
N3+ → N4+ + e7475.0
N4+ → N5+ + e9444.9
N → N5+ + 5e25756.3

Therefore, in total to remove 5 valence electrons from Nitrogen atom 25756.3 kJ/mol of energy is required which is quite high. Thus it’s impossible to remove all of 5 valence electrons from Nitrogen atom.

Moreover if we’ve a look at Orbital Diagram of Nitrogen, we can clearly see that 3 orbitals inside 2p subshell have one electron each and all of these three electrons have spins in one direction only which means 2p subshell have symmetrical distribution of electrons.

Three symmetrically distributed electrons in 2p subshell of Nitrogen N atom

Therefore its more stable and doesn’t want to change. That’s why its difficult to remove electrons from Nitrogen atom.

Valency of Nitrogen (N)

Valency refers to the ability of an element to combine with other elements. Valencies are same throughout the periodic table for elements that are located in the same group. 

Which means valency is same for all of Group 1 elements (K, Na etc. have valency = 1), Group 2 elements (Ca, Mg etc. have valency = 2) and so on for other groups in the periodic table. Also valency depends upon number of electrons that are found in an element’s outer most shell.

As Nitrogen (N) have electron configuration 1s2 2s2 2p3, which means there are in total five electrons in outermost subshell (2s and 2p subshells).

Nitrogen usually combines with other element’s atoms using covalent bonds, therefore if Nitrogen atom is just sharing 3 electrons in 2p subshell with another atom then it’s valency is 3.
But if in case its sharing 2 electrons in 2s subshell and 3 electrons in 2p subshell then its valency will be five.

Therefore valency of Nitrogen (N) can be three or five depending upon which element’s atom its combining with.

Nitrogen (N)Valency = 3 or 5

Does Nitrogen have Valency 3?

Valency refers to the ability of an element to combine with other elements and depends upon number of electrons available in outermost shell of atom.

Nitrogen atom has two shells K and L.
Its electron configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p3 and therefore it can share three electrons in its 2p subshell with some other atom and achieve an electron configuration where it have 8 electrons in it’s second orbit. Therefore achieving more stable electron configuration of nearest noble gas Neon (1s2 2s2 2p6).

As Nitrogen can share three electrons with other atoms and become more stable, therefore it’s valency is three.

In compounds Ammonia (NH3), Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN) nitrogen have valency 3.

Valency of Nitrogen is 3 in Ammonia and Hydrogen Cyanide

Does Nitrogen have Valency 5?

Nitrogen have electron configuration 1s2 2s2 2p3 which clearly shows that it have 5 valence electrons – 2 in 2s subshell and 3 in 2p shell. As Nitrogen can use electrons both in 2s and 2p subshells for bonding with other atoms. Therefore it’s valency is 5.

Nitrogen Anion or Nitride (N3-) Electron Configuration

Above I discussed that in order to achieve stable electron configuration, in which all of orbitals are fully filled with electrons. Nitrogen want to gain three electrons in its second orbit (3 electrons in 2p orbitals).

But when an atom of Nitrogen does again three electrons, then number of protons(positive charge) and number of electrons(negative charge) becomes unequal.

Thus forming a Nitride (N3-) ion.

N + 3e → N3-

So Orbital Electron Configuration of Nitrogen (N) atom is 1s2 2s2 2p3 and after gaining three electrons it becomes 1s2 2s2 2p6.
Therefore Electron Configuration of Nitride (N3-) ion is 1s2 2s2 2p6.

Conversion of Nitrogen to Nitride Ion showing electronic configuration of both nitrogen and nitride ion

Different Oxidation States of Nitrogen

Oxidation State is defined as total number of electrons that an atom either gains or loses in order to form a chemical bond with another atom.

As I’ve discussed above electron configuration of Nitrogen is 1s2 2s2 2p3. Just looking at this electron configuration its clear that Nitrogen can loose or gain different number of electrons to achieve some stable noble gas electron configuration.

As Nitrogen have capability to either loose/gain different number of electrons therefore it can have different Oxidation States in different compounds.

As Nitrogen can gain 3 electrons to fully fill orbitals in its 2p subshell and at the same time it can loose 5 electrons (2 electrons from 2s subshell and 3 electrons from 2p subshell). Therefore Nitrogen can have eight different oxidation states – 3, – 2, – 1, 0, +1, +2, +3, +4, +5.

Below is a summary of compounds showing different oxidation states of nitrogen in different compounds.

Nitrogen CompoundOxidation State of Nitrogen
Nitrate (NO3)+ 5
Nitrogen Oxide (NO2)+ 4
Nitrite (NO2)+ 3
Nitric Oxide (NO)+ 2
Nitroxyl (HNO)+ 1
Nitrogen (N2)0
Hydroxylamine (NH2OH)– 1
Hydrazine– 2
Ammonia (NH3)– 3

Nitrogen shows different oxidation states, why?

Because outermost shell of the nitrogen atom has 5 electrons, greater electronegative elements may increase the nitrogen atom’s oxidation state up to +5, however if nitrogen were to take electrons, its oxidation state could never go past – 3.

Because at maximum, Nitrogen can only take in 3 electrons inside its 3 half empty orbitals in 2p subshell. Therefore Nitrogen can have oxidation states varying from – 3 to + 5.

Although Nitrogen have + 5 Oxidation State, still it doesn’t form Pentahalide

Pentahalides are compounds which contain 5 atoms of halide.
Halide here means any Group 17 element – Chlorine, Bromine etc.

Just above I discussed that Nitrogen can have multiple oxidation states in different compounds, one of possible oxidation state of nitrogen is + 5 which means it should be able to form 5 covalent bonds with other atoms.

But as electron configuration of Nitrogen is 1s2 2s2 2p3 therefore it can only share 3 electrons in its 2p subshell with other atoms and form covalent bonds. 2s subshell is fully filled, therefore its not possible to share electrons in it with any other atom and form covalent bonds.

Thus theoretically just speaking from possibility, as Nitrogen have oxidation state + 5 so it should be able to form five covalent bonds with halide atoms. But as 2s subshell is fully filled and only 2p subshell electrons are available for sharing and forming bonds, therefore pentahalides of nitrogen doesn’t exist.

Thus
NF5
NCl5
NBr5
NI5
Does not exist.

Does Nitrogen have + 5 oxidation state?

Yes nitrogen does have + 5 oxidation state, Nitrate (NO3) is an example of ion in which nitrogen have + 5 oxidation state.

How can Nitrogen exhibit + 4 oxidation state?

The fact that NO2 is a paramagnetic gas clearly shows the existence of one electron that is not coupled with another. In addition to this, oxidation state of nitrogen in NO2 is +4. You are aware that the ground state electron configuration of nitrogen is of 1s2 2s2 2p3.

Now that it is in the excited state in NO2, the electron in the 2s orbital will move into the empty 3s orbital. Therefore, the link is formed by the two electrons in the most outermost shell, 2p3 and 3s1.


Now, the unpaired 2s1 electron contributes to the gas’s already impressive magnetic characteristics. In addition, the structure of nitrogen dioxide may be expressed as a radical structure like •NO2.

Does Nitrogen have + 2 oxidation state?

Yes nitrogen does have + 2 oxidation state, in nitric oxide (NO) oxidation state of nitrogen is +2.

Some Properties of Nitrogen

Element NameNitrogen
SymbolN
Atomic Number7
Number of electrons7
Group in Periodic Table17
Atomic Weight14.007 u
Number of Valence Electrons5
Valency3 or 5
First Ionisation Energy1402.3 kJ/mol
Second Ionisation Energy2856 kJ/mol
Third Ionisation Energy4578.1 kJ/mol
Oxidation States– 3, – 2, – 1, 0, + 1, + 2, + 3, + 4, + 5
Melting Point–209 °C
Boiling Point–195 °C
Atomic Radius56 picometre
Electronegativity3.04 on Pauling Scale
Van der waals Radius155 picometre

FAQs

What is correct electron configuration of Nitrogen Atom in its ground state?

A ground-state atom is an atom in which the total energy of the electrons can not be lowered by transferring one or more electrons to different orbitals. Which means that in ground-state atom, all electrons are in the lowest possible energy levels. Ground State electron configuration of Nitrogen atom is 1s2 2s2 2p3.

How many valence electrons does Nitrogen have?

Number of electrons in the last orbit of an element’s atom are called valence electrons.
As Nitrogen have electron configuration 1s2 2s2 2p3 so it’s last orbit is 2 (L shell which have Principle Quantum Number n = 2), as last orbit of Nitrogen have 5 electrons (2 in 2s and 3 in 2p subshell), therefore number of valence electrons in Nitrogen is five.

What is electron configuration of neutral Nitrogen?

Neutral Nitrogen atom means that it have equal number of electrons and protons. As in neutral state Nitrogen atom have total seven electrons, therefore electron configuration of neutral nitrogen is 1s2 2s2 2p3. Which means nitrogen atom have 2 electrons each in its 1s, 2s orbitals, 3 electrons in 2p orbitals.

What is electron configuration of nitride (N3-) ion?

When an atom of nitrogen gains 3 electrons, then number of protons(positive charge) and number of electrons(negative charge) becomes unequal. Thus forming a Nitride Ion (N3-). As electron configuration of Nitrogen atom is 1s2 2s2 2p3 and formation of nitride ion (N3-) require gaining of 3 electrons therefore electron configuration of nitride ion is 1s2 2s2 2p6.

Which element have electron configuration 1s2 2s2 2p3?

Nitrogen (N)

In what type of orbital is the outermost electron in Nitrogen atom?

Electron configuration of nitrogen is 1s2 2s2 2p3
From this it can be clearly observed that outermost electron in nitrogen atom is present in 2p orbital.

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