* Hence orient Nitre. 1. 143. Nitre is found in Bengal naturally crystallized, and is swept by brooms from earths and stones, and thence called sweepings of nitre. It has lately been found in large quantities in a natural bason of calcareous earth at Molfetta in Italy, both in thin strata between the calcareous beds, and in efflorescences of various beautiful leafy and hairy forms. An account of this nitre-bed is given by Mr. Zimmerman and abridged in Rozier's Journal de Physique Fevrier. 1790. This acid appears to be produced in all situations where animal and vegetable matters are com∣pleatly decomposed, and which are exposed to the action of the air as on the walls of stables, and slaughter-houses; the crystals are prisms furrowed by longitudinal groves.
Dr. Priestley discovered that nitrous air or gas which he obtained by dissolving metals in nitrous acid, would combine rapidly with vital air, and produce with it a true nitrous acid; forming red clouds during the combination; the two airs occupy only the space before occupied by one of them, and at the same time heat is given out from the new combination. This dimunition of the bulk of a mixture of nitrous gas and vital air, Dr. Priestley ingeniously used as a test of the purity of the latter; a discovery of the greatest importance in the analysis of airs.
Mr. Cavendish has since demonstrated that two parts of vital air or oxygene, and one part of phlogistic air or azote, being long exposed to electric shocks, unite, and produce nitrous acid. Philos. Trans. Vols. LXXV. and LXXVIII.
Azote is one of the most abundant elements in nature, and combined with calorique or heat, it forms azotic gas or phlogistic air, and composes two thirds of the atmosphere; and is one of the principal component parts of animal bodies, and when united to vital air or oxygene produces the nitrous acid. Mr. Lavoisier found that 211/2 parts by weight of azote, and 431/2 parts of oxygene produced 64 parts of nitrous gas, and by the further addition of 36 parts of oxygene nitrous acid was produced Traité de Chimie. When two airs become united so as to produce an unelastic liquid much calorique or heat is of necessity expelled from the new combination, though perhaps nitrous acid and oxygenated marine acid admit more heat into their combinations than other acids.
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