# Curious about the chemistry of Carbon-14 after it's produced in the atmosphere

It's often explained how $\ce{^14C}$ is formed in the upper atmosphere, a neutron hits a nitrogen atom and ejects a proton. Source. Since this is likely to happen to an $\ce{N2}$, I'm curious what the chemistry that follows is.

Does the energy of impact split the molecule, leaving a lone $\ce{^14C}$ and a lone $\ce{^14N}$ (and a lone hydrogen), (each highly eager to bond with something) or does it leave a $\ce{C-N}$ which might also readily bond with $\ce{O2}$ or maybe something else. I'm mostly curious what the immediate chemical reactions are after the $\ce{^14C}$ forms cause it seems to me that it should be initially pretty reactive.

Edit & maybe a partial answer:

It occurs to me after giving it some thought that if an $\ce{N2}$ is split into a free $\ce{C}$ and a free $\ce{N}$, each would be most likely to bond to an $\ce{O2}$, or a single $\ce{O}$ from $\ce{O3}$ if the split happens near the ozone layer (which is possible given the listed height where most $\ce{^14C}$ forms, "altitudes of 9 to 15 km" - same link as above). Initially I was thinking it might be more exotic than that, but having given this some thought I think that's what happens. The $\ce{C}$ and the $\ce{N}$ split and mostly each binds with $\ce{O2}$, 2nd most common they bind with $\ce{O}$. $\ce{CN}$ is probably pretty uncommon, now that I think about it.

• My initial guess would be that the nitrogen molecule would form cyanogen radical. – user1945827 Oct 22 '15 at 8:22