I'm new to chemistry and am studying nitric oxide as a combustion accelerant. Nitric oxide is said to be a free radical.

People say that nitric oxide, by itself, is pretty stable. But I saw that $$\ce{2NO -> N2 + O2}$$ so in a room of nitric oxide, will it decompose to nitrogen and oxygen?


1 Answer 1


Theoretically, it will decompose, but the reaction is rather slow, on a human timescale. One experiment ran for almost forty years (J. Phys. Chem. 1958, 62 (3), 360–361), from 1918 to 1957, without noticeable decomposition.

That said, in aqueous solutions it breaks down more rapidly. In vivo, the half-life is a few seconds.

It is amazing to me that a free radical is so stable!

  • $\begingroup$ Then again, the decomposition pathway in vivo is not the one that leads to O2 and N2. $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2018 at 6:57
  • $\begingroup$ @IvanNeretin, true, and its physiological reaction (as opposed to decomposition) has engendered a large pharmaceutical market, which is still rising. $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2018 at 15:30

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