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Liquid nitrogen

A demonstration of liquid nitrogen at the Freeside


maker space in Atlanta, Georgia during the Online
News Association conference in 2013
Liquid nitrogen
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"LN2" redirects here. For the high-speed railway line in France, see LGV Atlantique.
Liquid nitrogen is nitrogen in a liquid state at an
extremely low temperature. It is produced industrially by
fractional distillation of liquid air. Liquid nitrogen is a
colorless clear liquid with density of 0.807 g/mL at its
boiling point and a dielectric constant of 1.43.
[1]
Liquid
nitrogen is often referred to by the abbreviation, LN
2
or
"LIN" or "LN" and has the UN number 1977. Liquid
nitrogen is a diatomic liquid meaning the diatomic
character of the covalent N bonding in N
2
gas is retained
even after liquification.
[2]
At atmospheric pressure, liquid nitrogen boils at 196 C
(77 K; 321 F) and is a cryogenic fluid that can cause
rapid freezing on contact with living tissue. When
appropriately insulated from ambient heat, liquid
nitrogen can be stored and transported, for example in
vacuum flasks. Here, the very low temperature is held
constant at 77 K by slow boiling of the liquid, resulting
in the evolution of nitrogen gas. Depending on the size
and design, the holding time of vacuum flasks ranges
from a few hours to a few weeks.
Liquid nitrogen can easily be converted to a solid by
placing it in a vacuum chamber pumped by a rotary
vacuum pump.
[3]
Liquid nitrogen freezes at 63 K
(210 C; 346 F). Despite its reputation, liquid
nitrogen's efficiency as a coolant is limited by the fact
that it boils immediately on contact with a warmer
object, enveloping the object in insulating nitrogen gas.
This effect, known as the Leidenfrost effect, applies to
any liquid in contact with an object significantly hotter
than its boiling point. More rapid cooling may be
obtained by plunging an object into a slush of liquid and
solid nitrogen rather than liquid nitrogen alone.
Nitrogen was first liquefied at the Jagiellonian University on 15 April 1883 by Polish physicists, Zygmunt
Wrblewski and Karol Olszewski.
[4]
Contents
1 Uses
1.1 Culinary use of liquid nitrogen

Students preparing homemade ice cream with liquid
nitrogen.
2 Safety
3 Production
4 See also
5 References
Uses
Liquid nitrogen is a compact and readily transported
source of nitrogen gas without pressurization. Further, its
ability to maintain temperatures far below the freezing
point of water makes it extremely useful in a wide range
of applications, primarily as an open-cycle refrigerant,
including:
in cryotherapy for removing unsightly or
potentially malignant skin lesions such as warts and actinic keratosis
to store cells at low temperature for laboratory work
in cryogenics
in a Cryophorus to demonstrate rapid freezing by evaporation
as a backup nitrogen source in hypoxic air fire prevention systems
as a source of very dry nitrogen gas
for the immersion, freezing, and transportation of food products
for the cryopreservation of blood, reproductive cells (sperm and egg), and other biological samples and
materials
to preserve tissue samples from surgical excisions for future studies
as a method of freezing water and oil pipes in order to work on them in situations where a valve is not
available to block fluid flow to the work area, method known as "ice plug" nowadays replaced by
electrical heat pumps (for small pipe diameters)
in the process of promession, a way to dispose of the dead
for cryonic preservation in hopes of future reanimation.
to shrink-weld machinery parts together
as a coolant
for CCD cameras in astronomy
for a high-temperature superconductor to a temperature sufficient to achieve superconductivity
for vacuum pump traps and in controlled-evaporation processes in chemistry.
to increase the sensitivity of infrared homing seeker heads of missiles such as the Strela 3
to temporarily shrink mechanical components during machine assembly and allow improved
interference fits
for computers and extreme overclocking
[5]
for simulation of space background in vacuum chamber during spacecraft thermal testing
[6]
Filling a liquid nitrogen Dewar from
a storage tank
in food preparation, such as for making ultra-smooth ice cream.
[7]
See also molecular gastronomy.
in container inerting and pressurisation by injecting a controlled amount of liquid nitrogen just prior to
sealing or capping.
[8][9]
as a cosmetic novelty giving a smoky, bubbling "cauldron effect" to drinks. See liquid nitrogen cocktail.
as an energy storage medium.
[10][11]
branding cattle.
Culinary use of liquid nitrogen
The culinary use of liquid nitrogen is mentioned in an 1890 recipe book titled Fancy Ices authored by Mrs.
Agnes Marshall,
[12]
but has been employed in more recent times by restaurants in the preparation of frozen
desserts, such as ice cream, which can be created within moments at the table because of the speed at which it
cools food.
[12]
The rapidity of chilling also leads to the formation of smaller ice crystals, which provides the
dessert with a smoother texture.
[12]
The technique is employed by chef Heston Blumenthal who has used it at
his restaurant, The Fat Duck to create frozen dishes such as egg and bacon ice cream.
[12][13]
Liquid nitrogen has
also become popular in the preparation of cocktails because it can be used to quickly chill glasses or freeze
ingredients.
[14]
It is also added to drinks to create a smoky effect, which occurs as tiny droplets of the liquid
nitrogen come into contact with the surrounding air, condensing the vapour that is naturally present.
[14]
Safety
Because the liquid-to-gas expansion ratio of nitrogen is 1:694 at 20 C
(68 F), a tremendous amount of force can be generated if liquid
nitrogen is rapidly vaporized. In an incident in 2006 at Texas A&M
University, the pressure-relief devices of a tank of liquid nitrogen were
malfunctioning and later sealed. As a result of the subsequent pressure
buildup, the tank failed catastrophically and exploded. The force of the
explosion was sufficient to propel the tank through the ceiling
immediately above it, shatter a reinforced concrete beam immediately
below it, and blow the walls of the lab 48" off their foundations.
[15]
Because of its extremely low temperature, careless handling of liquid
nitrogen may result in cold burns.
As liquid nitrogen evaporates it will reduce the oxygen concentration in
the air and might act as an asphyxiant, especially in confined spaces.
Nitrogen is odorless, colorless, and tasteless and may produce asphyxia
without any sensation or prior warning.
[16]
A laboratory assistant died in
Scotland in 1999, apparently from asphyxiation caused by liquid
nitrogen spilled in a basement storage room.
[17]
In 2012, a young
woman in England had her stomach removed after ingesting a cocktail
made with liquid nitrogen.
[18]
Oxygen sensors are sometimes used as a safety precaution when working with liquid nitrogen to alert workers
of gas spills into a confined space.
[19]
Vessels containing liquid nitrogen can condense oxygen from air. The liquid in such a vessel becomes
increasingly enriched in oxygen (boiling point 90 K; 183 C; 298 F) as the nitrogen evaporates, and can
cause violent oxidation of organic material.
[20]
Production
Main article: Air separation
Liquid nitrogen is produced commercially from the cryogenic distillation of liquified air or from the
liquefication of pure nitrogen derived from air using pressure swing adsorption. An air compressor is used to
compress filtered air to high pressure; the high-pressure gas is cooled back to ambient temperature, and allowed
to expand to a low pressure. The expanding air cools greatly (the JouleThomson effect), and oxygen, nitrogen,
and argon are separated by further stages of expansion and distillation. Small-scale production
(http://homemadeliquidnitrogen.com) of liquid nitrogen is easily achieved using this principle. Liquid nitrogen
may be produced for direct sale, or as a byproduct of manufacture of liquid oxygen used for industrial processes
such as steelmaking. Liquid-air plants producing on the order of tons per day of product started to be built in the
1930s but became very common after the Second World War; a large modern plant may produce 3000 tons/day
of liquid air products.
[21]
See also
Industrial gas
Computer cooling
Cryogenic nitrogen plant
Liquid nitrogen vehicle
References
^ Murphy, E. J.; Morgan, S. O. "The Dielectric
Properties of Insulating Materials"
(http://www.alcatel-lucent.com/bstj/vol16-1937
/articles/bstj16-4-493.pdf). Retrieved October 2,
2012.
1.
^ D. G. Henshaw, D. G. Hurst, and N. K. Pope
(1953). "Structure of Liquid Nitrogen, Oxygen, and
Argon by Neutron Diffraction". Physical Review 92:
1229. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.92.1229 (http://dx.doi.org
/10.1103%2FPhysRev.92.1229).
2.
^ Umrath, W. (1974). "Cooling bath for rapid
freezing in electron microscopy". Journal of
Microscopy 101: 103105.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2818.1974.tb03871.x
(http://dx.doi.org
/10.1111%2Fj.1365-2818.1974.tb03871.x).
3.
^ Tilden, William Augustus (2009). A Short History
of the Progress of Scientific Chemistry in Our Own
Times (http://books.google.com
/books?id=8SKrWdFLEd4C&pg=PA249).
BiblioBazaar, LLC. p. 249. ISBN 1-103-35842-1.
4.
^ Wainner, Scott; Richmond, Robert (2003). The
Book of Overclocking: Tweak Your PC to Unleash Its
Power. No Starch Press. p. 44. ISBN 1-886411-76-X.
5.
^ Karam, Robert D. (1998). Satellite Thermal Control
for System Engineers. AIAA. p. 89.
ISBN 1-56347-276-7.
6.
^ Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Recipe
(http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives
/001366.html), March 7, 2006
7.
^ Liquid nitrogen how to dose effectively
(http://www.vacuumbarrier.com/Articles
/LiquidNitrogenDosing.html), June 19, 2012
8.
^ Chart Dosers Dosing Products
(http://www.chartdosers.com/products/dosing.html),
June 19, 2012
9.
^ Harrabin, Roger (2 October 2012). "Liquid air
'offers energy storage hope' " (http://www.bbc.co.uk
/news/science-environment-19785689). BBC.
10.
^ Markham, Derek (October 3, 2012). "Frozen Air
Batteries Could Store Wind Energy for Peak
Demand" (http://www.treehugger.com/wind-
technology/liquid-air-battery-could-provide-
renewable-energy-storage.html). Treehugger.
Discovery Communications.
11.
^
a

b

c

d
"Who What Why: How dangerous is liquid
nitrogen?" (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-
19870668). BBC News (BBC). 9 October 2012.
Retrieved 9 October 2012.
12.
^ Wallop, Harry (9 October 2012). "The dark side of
liquid nitrogen cocktails" (http://www.telegraph.co.uk
/health/9594206/The-dark-side-of-liquid-nitrogen-
cocktails.html). The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph
Media Group). Retrieved 12 October 2012.
13.
^
a

b
Gladwell, Amy (9 October 2012). "Teenager's
stomach removed after drinking cocktail"
(http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/19866191).
Newsbeat (BBC). Retrieved 9 October 2012.
14.
^ Mattox, Brent S. "Investigative Report on
Chemistry 301A Cylinder Explosion"
(http://ucih.ucdavis.edu/docs/chemistry_301a.pdf)
(reprint). Texas A&M University.
15.
^ British Compressed Gases Association (2000)
BCGA Code of Practice CP30. The Safe Use of
Liquid nitrogen Dewars up to 50 litres.
(http://www.bcga.co.uk/preview
/products.php?g1=3ff921&n=2) ISSN 0260-4809.
16.
^ Inquiry after man dies in chemical leak
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland
/484813.stm), BBC News, October 25, 1999.
17.
^ Liquid nitrogen cocktail leaves teen in hospital
(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19878511), BBC
News, October 8, 2012.
18.
^ Liquid Nitrogen Code of practice for handling
(http://www.bbk.ac.uk/so/policies/liqn2). United
Kingdom: Birkbeck, University of London. 2007.
Retrieved 2012-02-08.
19.
^ Levey, Christopher G. "Liquid Nitrogen Safety"
(http://engineering.dartmouth.edu/microeng
/ln2.html). Thayer School of Engineering at
Dartmouth.
20.
^ Almqvist, Ebbe (2003) History of Industrial Gases,
Springer, ISBN 0306472775 p. 163
21.
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