Letter | Published:

Mechanism for the Fixation of Nitrogen by Lightning


THE results of present studies directed towards the solution of the ion chemistry of the ionospheric D-region have interesting implications for the lower atmosphere as well. A major ion product of air ionization is NO+, which is a “terminal” ion because of its low energy content. Reactions which produce NO+ are1 These reactions cause NO+ to be a dominant ion in the regions of the Earth's ionosphere where neutral NO is a minor constituent. The reaction is exothermic, and while known to be slow1, may still be of significance where N2 densities are very high. The N2+ produced in air rapidly produces O2+ by charge-transfer Finally, it is known2,3 that all of the atmospheric ions, N+, N2+, O+, O2+ and NO2+, charge transfer rapidly to NO to produce NO+. Thus a large fraction of the positive ions produced in an atmospheric ionization event, such as a lightning stroke, can be expected to lead to NO+ production.

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    Goldan, P. D., Schmeltekopf, A. L., Fehsenfeld, F. C., Schiff, H. I., and Ferguson, E. E., J. Chem. Phys., 44, 4095 (1966).

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    Fehsenfeld, F. C., Ferguson, E. E., and Mosesman, M., Chem. Phys. Lett., 4, 73 (1969).

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