1001 things to do with Liquid Nitrogen

In the course of studying physics one is officially taught that liquid nitrogen is simply (and mainly) used to cool things down to 77K. But everybody who once has observed students in practical courses "working" with this stuff knows that this is not true.
My intention is now to tell the truth about what is really done with liquid N2 before its remains are taken and used for cooling.


As we all know liquid nitrogen is mainly used for...

  • making icecream by stirring for example yoghurt under it.
    (mind the carpet!; Darmstadt Group)


  • Roger Carlson comments on this topic

    I have pix of making ice cream (with a good recipe), feel free to link
    to them if you want:

    http://www.rogerandjudycarlson.com/roger/icecream/pix_ice_cream.html


  • putting pieces of chalk in it for making little hovercrafts (best on linoleum floors!)


  • twirling in large basins so that because of its low viscosity you get a
    (nearly) infinitly turning maelstrom. It's good fun to watch little
    paper-boats floating on it for minutes.


  • inhaling its fumes because everybody will make eyes on you exhaling.


  • freezing your partner's chair while he is shortly absent.


  • for squirting water in it. If you use a spray-bottle you can squirt funny
    ice patterns into a basin with nitrogen. My alltime favorite: Helmar's ice-earrings


  • one word: marshmellows


  • its nice for cooling a good beer in a basin of water on which the nitrogen is poured
    (not much fun to look at, but great fun to drink; Darmstadt Group)


  • Put on a rubber surgical glove with a hot dog (saussage) stuck in one of the
    fingers. Put the hot dog in the liquid nitrogen and then, to the amazement
    of your friends, smash your "finger" with a hammer. (Wes Denisson)
    Comment: Keep in mind which finger...


  • Get a pot of boiling water and pour some nitrogen in it. You will watch the
    mists of hell shrouding the floor. It's good fun to test how long
    you can stand sticking a finger into it - a cool feeling ...


  • Get about a liter of soap bubble solution hot and pour about a cupful of liquid
    nitrogen in it. Bubbles go everywhere! (Wes Denisson)


  • Break a light bulb, put the filament into liquid nitrogen and turn it on.
    Looks cool! (Wes Denisson)


  • Put a little bit of nitrogen in a can with a plastic snap on lid. We use a
    Pringles Chip can. After you pour in the nitrogen seal the lid. The lid will
    pop off with a boom and fly off. (David Hutchison)


  • Blow up a balloon. Put the inflated balloon in the nitrogen. It will deflate,
    then take it out and it will inflate as it warms up. (David Hutchison)


  • A siberian frog frozen in liquid nitrogen shall come to life again if you throw
    it back into the water. (Prof. Alois Loidl, who never tried it in public, but
    used a wind-up frog of his children instead, for demonstration)


  • Freeze a can of shaving cream and then peel the can away from the
    cream. Put the canless cream into someone's car. Let the oven-like
    heat from the car's sitting in the sun defrost the shaving cream.
    2 cans will fill an entire car. (Coulter C. Henry, Jr.)


  • Freeze a banana in liquid nitrogen and use it to hammer a nail. (Wes Dennison)


  • Here is a small anecdote from Markus Selve (Stuttgart, Germany) I will just quote:

    "Wir haben hier nebenbei auch 'ne Anwendung entdeckt.
    Eigentlich wollten wir eine wassergefüllte PET-Flasche (Cola)
    unter Druck setzen und dann als Rakete hochschießen. Mit Aufpumpen haben wir leider
    nur 5 bar erreicht. Deswegen haben wir in die Colaflasche ca. halb mit Wasser gefüllt.
    und dann ca 100 - 200 ml LN2 zugegeben und den Deckel geschlossen. Im Deckel war ein
    Loch in das wir ein Fahrradventil (nur die äussere Röhre ohne den eigentlichen
    Ventileinsatz) gesteckt hatten. Da drin war ein Gummistöpsel. Eigentlich sollte es bei
    Erreichen des Enddrucks (was auch immer der hätte sein sollen) den Stopfen rausdrücken
    und die Rakete vom Wasserstrahl hochgehoben werden. Es hat aber den gesamten Schraubdeckel
    abgerissen. Das Wasser ging ziemlich schnell raus und die Rakete ist immerhin bis zum 7.
    Stock (ca. 30m) geflogen."


  • Here is another quote from Jeeplass (Philadelphia):

    As an employee of the Franklin Institute Science Museum in
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I had many occasions to use liquid nitrogen in our Hot & Cold show:
    One thing we used to do for smaller groups was to freeze a graham cracker and
    then eat it. The vapors released through your mouth and nose are quite
    dramatic and it really does tintilate your tastebuds! Of course, we usually
    waved the cracker around just a little before eating it to be sure no drops of
    the really cold stuff linger.


  • This story was mailed to me by Earl Blodgett (Wisconsin)

    For several years our Society of Physics Students
    chapter has entertained visiting students with a spectacular liquid nitrogen depth charge.
    The term "depth charge" is used because we have a large extremely durable plastic trash can filled
    with about 40 cm of water. - After a short safty talk, focusing on the rule of NEVER tightly sealing
    a vessel containing liquid nitrogen, we use a long-necked metal funnel to pour perhaps half a liter of
    liquid nitrogen into an ordinary 2 liter soda bottle. Then we tightly screw on the cap, and drop it into
    the water! - For several seconds, one can hear the bottle expanding! The preferential orientation of the
    polymers makes the bottle get longer and longer, rather than a more spherical expansion. However, eventually
    the polymers just can't take it anymore, and BOOM! A quite satisfying detonation, sending water, nitrogen
    vapor, and bits of plastic high into the air. - The heavy duty plastic can serves to direct the "shrapnel"
    upwards, it is lots safer this way versus just setting the bottle on the grass and running away!
    (picture 1, picture 2)


  • Larry Weinstein sent me the following: We have two more demos we use LN2 for here at ODU:

    1) Take a 'ringshooter' (used to demonstrate Lenz's Law by placing an aluminum ring around
    an AC electromagnet [made by wrapping wire around a long thin iron core - typically 15-20 cm
    high and 3 cm in diameter] - the Al ring will jump into the air, a split Al ring and a nonconducting
    ring will not move) and demonstrate that the Al ring will jump from the magnetic repulsion. Now
    chill the Al ring in LN2. Repeat the demonstration and the ring will jump MUCH higher (since its
    resistance decreases substantially at -200 C)

    2) Take a thinwalled metal cone, point downward (a sealed metal funnel will work). Fill it with LN2.
    Wait. Oxygen will condense out of the air and drip from the tip of the cone. Hold the tip of the funnel
    between the poles of a strong magnet. The drops of liquid oxygen will levitate there (if the field is
    strong enough) giving a rare good demonstration of paramagnetism. (This demo is courtesy of Sebastian
    Kuhn, also at ODU.)

  • Four suggestions by TOM MILLER (Air Force Research Lab):

    (1) Start a show by sticking one end of very flexible tubing
    (e.g., latex or tygon) down into a dewar; the heat of the tubing
    will cause LN2 to spray out the other end of the tubing, and
    you can direct the spray at the audience. After the submerged
    end of the tubing is completely frozen (and the spraying stops),
    remove from the dewar and whack the frozen end on a table
    and watch it break into pieces.

    (2) Wrap a long piece of latex tubing around itself and stick
    the whole thing into a dewar of LN2 until completely frozen.
    Remove and place on a table, and continue with the rest of
    your show. After a few minutes, the tubing will slowly start to
    move, sometimes crawling across the table.

    (3) Stick flowers in LN2 and then crumble them in my hand;
    large ones like carnations are best. Sounds simple, but the
    kids love it.

    (4) I freeze balloons, as you mention, but in a better way.
    Blow up a balloon and slip the end of the balloon over the open
    end of a test tube, and place the closed end in a dewar full of
    LN2. Your breath in the balloon will slowly liquify (10-15 minutes).
    When the balloon is completely deflated, lift the test tube out of
    the dewar and the audience can see your liquified breath in the
    test tube. The tube will frost up, but you can wipe the frost off
    with your fingers. Rest the test tube in a beaker, and as time
    passes, the balloon will inflate again.


  • Bob sent me an email reading:

    not exactly a *fancy* idea, but I thought it was cool;
    bouce (or have a volunteer bounce) a soft, hollow ball. then freeze the ball LN2 style.
    using gloves, try to bounce the ball again. The always neat shattering effect will be
    accompanied by a loud bang.

    also, throwing LN2 from a bucket at a wall - preferably above someone -
    creates some interesting effects (the wall will "smoke" for a while)


  • An email with the following idea comes from Ken Hubbard (da Vinci Middle School, Eugene, Oregon):

    I do another "trick" with my middle school students. If you put about 10 ml of LN2 into
    a styrofoam cup into a bell vacuum you can see solid nitrogen. The crystalization "puffs" up
    very quickly. Really cool to be able to see N as a solid, liquid and a gas.


  • Something nasty is proposed by Craig Shaw:

    fill a small bottle with ln2 then screw the lid on tight. Put in a bag of flour and seal with elastic band. Then run


  • Åge Guddingsmo from Norway suggested the following:

    The other day me and some other students where playing around with Liquid Nitrogen.
    I got the Idea to put it in 1/2 l soda bottle and watch it blow. To increase the rate
    of heat into the bottle we used water. We used a 10 l bucket with water. It resulted in
    an huge explosion, leaving the bucket in small pices over a larger area.


  • Something for the techies among the readers of this site sent to me by Ralph Lewis Newman-Allen

    ya this isnt as quick or as easy to do as most of the fun things on the site..
    but a project that someone else accomplished in finaldn i think (not sure where) use a
    liquid nitrogen bath to cool a AMD 1ghz cpu and overclocked it to 2ghz.
    The guy mentioned, and this is what im hopefully going to accomplish/find out,
    that he probobly could have overclocked it further then that but he apparently didnt have
    a large enough powersupply.

    This is the thing thats curious though. Im no expert in computers just a long
    term intermediate user, butas far as i know most of the power goes to your monitor
    (about 80% less with an LCD monitor) but even then its still probobly the most.
    I wonder how minimal the cpu power drain really is on the system overall and how cost
    effective it would be in the long term to just pay a few extra bucks a month, if
    thats what it would amount to, for electricity then to buy a new pc system every year.

    Of course theres always the cost of the nitrogen compressor too which would prob be a tad expensive.


  • Ron George from Llanelli, Wales (UK) wrote to me:

    I "fry" an egg using LN2. Crack an egg into a frying pan. Pour LN2 over the egg.
    It turns into a "fried egg"! When it warms up again, it becomes an uncooked egg once more.


  • Paul Beauregard is writing:

    Pour LN2 on the tile floor with a sweeping action as you walk. It gathers
    up dust into a gray mat like felt. It's sort of like using a water hose on
    a driveway to push dirt in one direction. Great for 'dusting' under heavy
    machinery or instruments. Sweep up the gathered dust at the edges of the
    room or the low point in the room and it's gone.


  • Tish Richey gives an example pour les Chefs

    One of my favorite liquid nitrogen demonstrations is to place an egg (raw & in shell)
    in container and cover with liquid nitrogen. after the nitrogen has evaporated,
    take the egg out smash it with a hammer, it appears to be hard boiled.
    As it cools it returns to white and yolk.


  • Lets hope the fire brigade takes this joke (Dr Lucio Baggio; Univ. of Trento, Italy)

    Hide a Dewar into one friend's dorm, drop LN2 around when he is not watching, and
    then cry "FIRE". This was told me by a friend of mine, who enjoyed to see the attempts
    of the victim to stop the fire...


  • Richard Mack tells us about effectively cleaning floors:

    LN2 also works great for sweeping and cleaning hard floors such as concrete or wood.
    Get a couple liters in a container, and dump it on the floor in the direction
    you want the debris to travel. It picks up everything in it's wave and if it hits a wall,
    the wave will boil off and deposit the junk there. Now all you have to do is go
    around the perimeter and sweep up the clutter.


  • James McSheehy agrees with Richard Mack

    LN2 is great for cleaning linoleum or vinyl floors. As it rolls across
    the floor and boils, it picks up dirt, dust, and small debris. With a
    little practice, the detritus can be sent in a specific direction and
    deposited under a lab bench or out the door. Perfect for fast clean-ups
    when lab directors decide to visit the worker bees.


  • Jeremy A. Smith tells us a small story:

    At the Gettysburg College Physics department we used to do all kinds of liquid
    nitrogen demos to wow visting students. All pretty run of the mill stuff, but
    at the end of the spring semester the department head would give the Society
    of Physics Students free reign to play with the remaining liquid, as most of
    it would dissipate over the summer break anyway.

    We did several 'depth charge' style explosions in the fountain that sat in
    front of the physics building. Unsatisfied with that we created a liquid
    nitrogen cannon with a simple piece of thick cylindrical pipe, capped off
    and weighted at one end (we also had free reign of the physics department
    metal shop). We would put a small amout of liquid nitrogen in a 16 ounce
    plastic bottle, tighten the lid as taight as possible, and placed it upside
    down in the cannon. Then we placed a lacrosse ball on top of the bottle...
    if you ever noticed, those bottles are concave on the bottem and thus made
    perfect resting points for spherical projectiles. We would expediate the
    expansion of the gas by pouring some water into the cannon. The explosion
    would be very impressive, launching the ball tremendous distances. With a
    stop watch and some quick application of basic kinematics we determined we
    could get the ball to reach heights of over 40 meters! An impressive show
    to say the least. We were never able to find a suitably sized pipe to
    create a 2-liter bottle cannon... probably for the better, as we probably
    would have tried launching bowling balls or something.

    As a side note, we only ever had one mishap. Once we fumbled a bit too long
    with the cannon and a bottle exploded in my hand. The most significant
    damage was the startle. The concussion was considerable though, numbing my
    hand for twenty minutes or so. The only other lasting repercussion was some
    scratches from the tattered plastic shards. Lesson to be learned: Physics
    fun is not without its hazards.


  • Another story by Chad Orzel (Physics Department, Union College)

    Regarding the "Liquid nitrogen in a Coke bottle" trick,
    you really ought to warn your readers to be cautious about
    trying that one. I know of a case at MIT where a bored
    graduate student put liquid nitrogen in a Coke bottle, and
    became alarmed when the bottle started to swell up. He
    couldn't get the cap off, so he put the bottle in a restroom
    sink, and waited outside the door.

    The resulting explosion destroyed the sink, and drove little
    slivers of plastic into the walls and ceiling. I've seen
    pictures of the aftermath-- the damage was pretty impressive.
    Somebody in the same room when the bottle blew could've been
    seriously injured.

    (Of course, since nobody _was_ injured, it's a funny story.
    I'm especially fond of the coda, where the campus police
    called his advisor at home (the whole thing happened in the
    early morning hours), and told him that one of his students
    had blown up the lab with nitroglycerin... The advisorm
    needless to say, was rather relieved to learn that said student
    had only destroyed a bathroom with liquid nitrogen.)


  • no comment on the following suggestion by Edward Lin (California)

    Another trick you can do is to "drink" LN2. since the nitrogen will vaporize
    when it gets near your tongue, it will float on an insulating bed of
    nitrogen gas and not actually freeze your tongue. You can then blow smoke
    and impress your friends. Important Note: dont drink very much at a time
    (just a sip) otherwise your skin temperature may eventually get to freezing,
    and also do not actually swallow since your epiglotis will seal off your
    esophagus and hold the LN2 long enough to freeze the surrounding tissue.


  • Marshall Hampton has tried the same as above

    You can put a little in your mouth (not too much!! - about half a small
    spoonful) and let wisps of vapor come out. This is quite safe if you don't
    overdo it - like water on a very hot stove, the N2 doesn't wet the surface.


  • Here is what Ian Hook (Ex. University of New England) mailed to me:

    Warning ?
    My clumsy physics Lab partner was always knocking over or spilling things.
    So naturally when a beaker was spilt all over my Lab note book, I grabbed it
    and lifted quickly out of the way.
    How does one explain to the lecturer why my entire years work is shattered into
    a hundred pieces ?

    Luckily the partner did not stay for another year. He noted that a 1 inch diameter
    polished steel optical reflector was very dirty. It needed more than just a simple wipe.
    Intending to moisten it........ he lost a huge chunk out of the centre of his tongue !
    I think he was expelled after a "snap oral test".

    Otherwise, it's great fun for the careful.


  • Another nice trick was mailed to me by Dan Dulek (Stagg High School)

    Try taking a ping-pong ball and poking a small hole in it. The hole has to be tangent
    to the sphere of the ball. When poking the hole use a pin and the pin should be almost
    flat agianst the ball. Basiclly you want a hole in the side of the ball that will cause
    the ball to spin. Submerge this ball into the liquid nitrogen and let it fill up.
    Place the ball on a table and watch it spin. As the nitrogen goes back to a gas it will
    rush out the hole and presto!! It's pretty cool. If it does not spin try placing your
    hand on it to warm it to get it started.


  • Michael L. Clark, PE mailed to me the following text:

    One of my favorite demonstrations is to freeze miniature marshmallows and
    allow the participants to eat them. The thermal mass is quite low, thus
    there is little danger of injury, but if eaten quickly, they still create a
    small cloud of vapor.
    The marshmallows are not as messy as other frozen foods. Frozen Tootsie
    Rolls are also very good.


  • Then I got the following message by Airframe123_at_aol.com:

    Hey, i think you have great ideas[;] here are some of mine (Tested safe)
    * You can put you[r] hand in liquid nitrogen and pull it out quickly (Bare hands)
    * Pour a tbsp of liquid nitrogen into your hands quickly switch hands.

    Safer projects

    * Put a helium filled ballon in the liquid nitrogen take it out after 15-25
    seconds. Drop it, it will fall to the ground and the float once more
    * Put a leaf in liquid nitrogen, shatter it with your hands (Wear gloves)
    * Put a rubber band in the liquid nitrogen, try to stretch it (Breaks doesn't it)
    * Put 10 ballons in the liquid nitrogen (2quarts or more container) It will
    amaze your friends (Wow all those fit?) Take it out and watch it inflat.


  • John H. DuBois III sent me the following:

    We initially acquired LN2 to make ice cream (which I've found to be especially
    enjoyable in the heat of the desert, at Burning Man). But this inevitably led
    to further experimentation. Some of the things we've done with it:

    I dipped a large butane cylinder (the type used to refill torches and lighters)
    into LN2 long enough for it to solidify, then removed it, cut it open, and
    pulled out the large waxy ingot of butane. I chipped pieces off and set them
    in the patio and lit them; they slide downhill as the butane on the bottom
    re-liquifies, with the flames getting larger and larger. I finally took the
    whole remaining piece and did the same with it, keeping an eye on it to make
    sure it didn't catch anything on fire.

    For a "Mad Science" party, I tried making butane ice cubes for drinks. I made
    a small pressure vessel out of pipe pieces and connected it via tube to a
    cylinder of butane. I dipped the vessel in LN2, and after waiting for it to
    cool down, injected butane into it and let it solidify. Then I removed the
    vessel from the LN2 and opened it up and removed the plug of butane. I ended
    up only making one, but I was able to drop it in a flask of water and ignite
    the butane gas the poured out. I ended up winning the party's top prize (a
    radiometer) for this experiment. I think that may have had something to do
    with the liquid butane that dripped off of the plug onto my pants and caused
    them to burst into flame when I lit the flask.

    My housemate showed me that he could pour LN2 into a metal measuring cup, and
    tilt it a bit so that the LOX that condenses on the outside runs to one edge of
    the bottom to form a nice drop. He then lights a wooden match, blows it out so
    that just an ember is left, and touches it to the LOX drop, causing the match
    to burst back into flame.

    He also experimented with LN2-driven rockets, as recounted here:
    http://www.armory.com/~spcecdt/pyrotech/cryoRocket_icb.html

    A bit of advice: If you put out styrofoam bowls of LN2 to allow party-goers to
    play with it, and there are also gummy bears present at this party, expect said
    party-goers to discover that gummy bears shatter wonderfully when brought to
    LN2 temperature and thrown on the floor or hammered with a mallet, with tiny
    bits of gummy bear flying in all directions. Also expect to have a terribly
    sticky mess to clean up the next day.

    A serendipitous discovery: If you carefully cool down ethanol of very high
    proof by adding LN2 directly to it while stirring, before it freezes it will
    become glassy. The higher the proof, the easier this is to do. In my
    experiments, anything less than 80% (160 proof) would transition directly from
    low-viscosity liquid to solid. With 95% alcohol, it's easy to bring it to
    the glassy state; with intermediate concentrations it can be done if you are
    very careful and proceed slowly. A scoop of glassy alcohol dripping slowly off
    of the spoon in long strands is a sight to behold. Of course, there is a
    temptation to taste it, but be careful or you will end up with a blister on the
    tip of your tongue (cough).

    He recently wrote: "I finally scanned in some pictures I took of the stuff I
    sent you a long while ago. They're at http://www.armory.com/~images/?s=LN2fun"


  • The next idea was sent so me by Sasha Ivanov

    LN is used in cosmetics to treat acnes, various skin diseases and hair loss due to
    over active sebaceous (oil producing) glands. Wrap the stick with cotton, deep the
    stick in LN and roll it back and forth over your skin or scalp. The cold causes
    glands to shrink, stabilizing HP balance of the scalp. Your hair will grow four
    times faster and healthier.


  • The following idea was mailed to me by Steve Rohl (Senior _at_ Euclid High School)
    who also likes to experiment with lqN2 together with his friend Ross James Salupo:

    Let me start out by saying what can't you do with liquid nitrogen! But my
    chemistry teacher showed me many things to do with it, such as exploding a 2
    liter bottle and blowing it out of is mouth. But someting I don't think I saw
    on your site was, putting a nice bloomed rose or flower in it and when you
    squeeze it, it just crumbles. If thats not entertaining enough for you, another
    thing you can do is, Light the floor on fire. All you need is a methane pump and
    a test tube with a two holed stopper. Put glass rod in the holes. Connect a
    rubber hose to one of the glass rods and also to the methane. Turn on the gas
    and it'll go into the test tube and after 4 min or so, you will have a good
    amount of liquid methane (of course the test tube has to be placed in a container
    of liquid nitrogen). Now quickly take the test tube out of the liquid nitrogen
    dump it on the floor and light. This isn't quite as dangerous as it sounds.
    But every saftey measure should be taken...


  • The following email reached me by Lasse Greiner

    Wir benutzen LN2 für Hochzeiten statt Reis. Wenn das Pärchen aus dem Amt/Kirche
    kommt schütten wir 2-3 Dewarkannen (a 25L) aus. Der entstehende Nebel ist ein sehr
    netter Effekt, und die Abkühlung ist im Sommer auch willkommen...

    Nur im Freien, und nicht in irgendwelchen Senken oder so probieren!
    Und nicht fragen was das kostet ;-)

    Englisch:
    We use LN2 instead of rice at weddings. When the couple is leaving the building,
    we pour 2-3 Dewars (each approx 25L) on the ground. The fog is a neat effect and
    the cooling is appreciated in summer times.....

    Outside only, and never try this in a valley of some kind.
    And do not ask about the cost ;-)

    PS: Ein sehr einfaches Schokoeisrezept (Kalorienbombe)

    1 Glas Nutella o.ä.
    250g Sahne
    1 Pk Vanillinzucker

    Nutella erwärmen, in der Sahne mit Vanillezucker auflösen.
    In LN2 eintropfen, je kleiner die Tropfen desto besser.
    Im Gefrierschrank (-20°C,über Nacht) auftauen lassen.


  • James Jackson told me the following little anecdote:

    We were using LN2 in a lab the other day to cool stuff down, surprisingly.
    I managed to tip a load onto my trousers. Of course it began boiling off,
    with clouds of 'smoke' coming off. Just at this point, when I was walking
    around the lab with dramatically smoking trousers, a tour group of prospective
    students walked into the lab. We all went about as if nothing was strange,
    which confused the hell out of the tour group! Suffice it to say when they
    left we pissed ourselves laughing.

    The fun we have in otherwise dull labs.


  • Someone sent me a quite some list of funny and silly things to do with liquid nitrogen:

    1. Blu-Tack nails hammered into the wall
    Because liquid nitrogen is so very cold, things that are normally soft are
    changed in surprising and amusing ways. Blu-Tack, normally like putty, can
    be shaped by hand into the shape of nails, which when put into liquid
    nitrogen go hard (as nails) and can then be hammered into the wall (well,
    if the wall is fairly soft). Of course, liquid nitrogen soon evaporates
    and the nails warm up, and nails made of Blu-Tack turn back into ordinary
    soft Blu-Tack, leaving a situation which seems to other people IMPOSSIBLE!
    How has someone made a nail of soft Blu-Tack and nailed it into the wall?

    Similarly I once made a cutting tool out of Blu-Tack, put it on a
    power-drill and cut a notch in a desk. Next time you see notches in
    university desks, you may wonder how they've been done!

    2. Explosives that disappear into thin air
    I urge caution here, as the letting off of explosions should always be done
    in good humour! Seeing a bomb go off - great fun, but ending up dead or in
    the accident & emergency dept NOT FUNNY, especially if you've got a really
    stupid story to tell when they say "how did this happen?". Anyway, liquid
    nitrogen, about 50ml of it, in a plastic lemonade bottle. At room temperature,
    liquid nitrogen boils, expanding like steam to fill a volume 2000 times its
    liquid state. The plastic bottle explodes very violently. being nearer than
    30ft is NOT RECOMMENDED! Boom! It explodes in a great cloud of frozen steam
    and ice-vapour! The plastic of the bottle is brittle like broken glass and
    smashes into smithereens, tiny shards going all over the place. Then the scene
    clears and all the liquid nitrogen literally DISAPPEARS INTO THIN AIR. So,
    explosion investigators will find remnants of a violent explosion but
    absolutely no trace of any explosives.

    3. Rockets too can be made. As in "the advanced gas-cooled Lilt bottle".

    4. Solid lumps of pure frozen Antifreeze
    Antifreeze is a liquid deliberately for preventing freezing. Even dilute
    quantities in car radiators can save your engine from being destroyed by
    frost. Even the most severe winter will not freeze a quite strong solution
    of antifreeze in water. But pure antifreeze, surely that could never be
    frozen? Not so! Liquid nitrogen will freeze it solid! Pure solid blue crystal
    lumps of antifreeze - a sight to be seen!

    5. What if it gets in your carpet?
    Liquid nitrogen is as wet as water, so it will soak material. On a solid
    floor it will skitter about like globules of water on a cooker hotplate,
    as the floor at room temperature is from a nitrogenous perspective as hot
    as a hotplate. They hover around like tiny hovercraft on their own cushions
    of evaporating fluid. A carpet is a bit different, and the stuff will soak
    right through. For this reason it is best to make sure it's a good quality
    carpet and not foam-backed, as the foam will shatter! Good quality carpets
    aren't harmed by liquid nitrogen (except for really ancient fibre carpet).
    Chewing gum in contrast turns to something hard and brittle, so with a hammer
    it can be smashed! This is a novel way to remove sticky icky gooey things
    from carpets.

    6. Drinking liquid nitrogen
    Not recommended! It's about as advisable as fire-eating! However I can do
    it because I know how tiny a quantity of liquid nitrogen to drink such that
    I avoid exploding! Even a few ml, swallowed, results in belching forth great
    clouds of ice-vapour, an excellent party trick! Getting it wrong, though,
    would be very nasty. I have found that when doing something really silly
    it is best to be sensible in the silliness! If I was being charged up to
    a million volts so I could spike my hair I'd be very careful not to touch
    anything connected to electrical earth.

    7. Rubber
    Rubber; flexible, bouncy, stretchy, springy... but with liquid nitrogen it
    becomes a hard solid a bit like porcelain. Rubber tubes, such as those
    found on bunsen burners, if dipped in liquid nitrogen, turn into thin pottery
    tubes and can be smashed! Then when they warm up, the broken pieces are still
    in the shape of smashed shards but are now made of flexible rubber again.
    A curious irony.

    8. Killing weeds in the garden
    Weeds growing inbetween slabs on paths? No problem! A quick dose of liquid
    nitrogen freezes them solid! Weeds in garden paths do not survive being
    frozen to minus 196 degrees C and then melting in the sun. However, the
    liquid nitrogen is not a poison or a chemical as such and will completely
    disappear into thin air. As a result, there is no residue. The sterile
    ground will soon get new seeds dropped on it, so the technique of using
    liquid nitrogen as weedkiller is not a permanent solution. What's more,
    though the weeds will come back, your liquid nitrogen will not.

    9. Whistling Kettles
    If a whistling kettle is filled with liquid nitrogen it will soon boil,
    even if just left in the room with no heating applied. A boiling kettle
    with no heating. It will even whistle and boil in the deep freezer, as the
    liquid is boiling at room temperature, so the room and the freezer are
    like an oven in relative terms.

    10. The tale of the exploding Fairy Liquid
    This happened in a room in a student hall of residence. I already knew
    from experience at a student party that if liquid nitrogen is put in a
    bottle of Fairy Liquid then after an effective delay the top will burst off
    and hit the ceiling! So, attempting to repeat this in my student room I
    borrowed the bottle of dish washing liquid from the communal kitchen and
    placed it in the middle of the carpet where my friends gathered around the
    room could observe the stunt without (much) danger. Now I'm sure the people
    who make Fairy Liquid will nod in agreement here about the wisdom of buying
    a good quality washing-up liquid like Fairy Liquid and not some cheap brand.
    Because Fairy Liquid is the top-of-the-range stuff and is a bit more
    expensive, the bottle is more sturdy. The borrowed bottle of shop's own
    brand was not just cheaper soapy stuff, but a lesser-engineered bottle. What
    happened next was observed by the onlookers who will not forget, as the
    liquid nitrogen boiled away and the bottle started to expand, bloating out
    like a balloon. At last it could take it no more, and suddenly BURST! The
    contents, a mixture of liquid nitrogen and soap-liquid went all over the
    carpet!
    The nitrogen disappeared within minutes. But how do you clean liquid soap
    out of a carpet? Use muck? In the end it was never finally resolved,
    although some of the bravest attempts took place on a Friday night. It was
    a known fact that the cleaners never visited over the weekend, and the
    heating was always on full because the tower had no separate room controls
    and therefore had to be heated to the most tropical temperatures so as to
    please all the residents, some of whom were from very hot places. So, on a
    Friday night, the twenty gallon transformer wagon on wheels (which just
    happened to be about) was filled with water and was overturned onto the
    carpet! This produced loads of suds which could be trampled around in, but
    the stuff was never exhausted. So, if you're staying in a student hall of
    residence, you might like to test your carpet to see if it's been soaked
    in soap.

    11. Case of mistaken identity - The Wrong Pie
    It was usual to collect food from the refectory and leave it lying around
    in the rooms. Because of this, some of the food lying about on plates in
    rooms was fresh, and some of it was stale. It never really went bad, but
    because of the high temperatures and dry air it would become preserved and
    dried-out. On that day I had put a small amount of liquid nitrogen in a
    champagne bottle and had put the cork in (caution! Silliness!), and I aimed
    it at a slice of cherry tart which had been lying around for a week or two
    and I had decided was a bit too stale and was ready to throw out of the
    window of the high tower to the birds. The cork shot out like a bullet, as
    expected, and hit the cherry tart with just the right amount of force so as
    not to smash the plate. But oh shucks, I suddenly realised the mistake and
    saw the actual stale cherry tart on the bookshelf. I had shot the wrong
    pie! The shot pie was the fresh one I had acquired that day! What a mess!
    I hate wasting food! It really won't do! So I got a spoon and went around
    carefully eating it off the chairs, curtains, carpets, etc, being very
    careful to avoid eating any industrial grit and other stuff that had been
    produced by some of the other silly experiments that had been done in that
    room. It was an hour before I had got all the pie eaten. Not good, as I
    could have put that time into studying something scientific.
    So, the moral is: When aiming a champagne bottle with liquid nitrogen at
    a cherry tart, make sure to identify the correct target first!


  • Billwiljr_at_aol.com points out:

    Freeze a raquet ball an try to play the game; it doesnt work, does it!


  • Alan from Myrtle Beach SC wants us to acknowledge his experiment:

    Yes liquid nitrogen cam be put in your mouth. I work with it daily and have
    tried most of the things on this page but be VERY careful putting it in your
    mouth the cold is the obvious one but the other thing to really look out for
    is not to swallow any. I accidentally swallowed one tiny drop and the expansion
    rate in your stomach is the same as a plastic bottle. I just got a tight
    feeling and lots of burps I am sure any more could be worse...
    Be careful and have fun....


  • Abou Kadmiry wrote me an email with the following text:

    If you've ever seen the movie "clockstoppers" (whether you hate it or not),
    then you'll realize that they used LN in a few of there seens. I'm not sure
    if the idea really works, but if any of you have paintball guns and a
    sufficient suply of LN then here is what you do:

    1- remove the paint from a few paint balls using a medicall needle or something.
    2- refill the paint balls, this time with the LN.
    3- try shooting different things with your new LN paint balls!
    (maybe you could freexe a thing or two)

    and if you really want to get into the idea, go out on halloween as "the Freeze"
    or whatever his name is. you can use ure LN paintball gun to amaze your friends.
    Enjoy!

    Warning- dont try shooting human beings!


  • A funny idea came from Christian Ramsvik
    (web-page: http://www.calvin-and-hobbes.org):

    I haven't tried this, but I think it would be a cool thing to do: Where I live,
    there is a small park with a small pool where people swim in the summer when it
    is warm. Imagine freezing the pool with LN2, anbd watch the faces of the people
    when they show up in their swimsuits ready for some wet fun, only to find
    someone ice-skating the pool in the middle of the summer! I guess it would
    require a lot of LN2, but it would have been SO cool.


  • Dennis Carr has an extension of the balloon one:

    Use helium in the balloons. Compress the He balloons in the LN2, take them out,
    hang it over a rail (carefully, you don't want to shatter the balloon), then
    watch as it spontaneously decompresses and flies off.


  • There is another interesting idea around of electrodynamics under cool (meaning 'low') temperatures:

    Eric Giordmaina (World Wide Gas Company BOC Gases) asked the question:
    But im curious, have you tried breaking a light bulb and putting the filament in LN2 and turned it on and if so what was the result??

    Shortly after I got the following email by Pieter Kuiper from Sweden:
    This morning I tried the broken incandescent lightbulb under nitrogen - very nice!
    On a similar track: LEDs (light-emitting diodes) change color, because of changes in the band gap.
    This one can see directly in a pigment like cadmium red or cadmium orange: the bandgap of Cd(S,Se)
    increases at lower temperature.


  • From Rachel Drummond I got the following story:

    If you are amusing/pitiful/persuasive/broke enough, the lab technicians in your physics
    lab will let you burn off warts with LN2. Warts generally don't have much in the way
    of sensation so, to the horrified and fascinated lab tech, you'll seem quite immune
    to pain. Note: it's better to underfreeze than overfreeze, the skin underneath isn't
    the target. The wart won't immediately fall off (unless, I suppose you really overdo
    it), but after a week or two of wearing a rather grey wart it will slough off. I can
    report that my attempt to remove my wart permanently was successful, while previous
    doctor's appointments weren't.


  • James Hellem (Durham University, England) writes:

    In a physics lab session. We filled a bulb shaped
    fanta bottle with liquid nitrogen. We then empyied it,
    put the lid on and put it in the bin. An hour later
    someone rediscovered the bottle now an expanded
    sausage shape, with teh head of physics in the room
    someone decided to stamp on it.
    The bottle withstood his 13 stone weight. Then someone
    decided to puncture it with a compass. The noise
    expelled was a mighty explosion. Everyone in the
    classes ears were ringing as were those in the lasbn
    accross the corridor. The explosion was heard
    throughout the 4 storey building!
    Try this one with care.


  • Fred and Randi Wightman wrote the following lines:

    We tried several of your experiments here at Central High in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Great fun.

    The one that stole the show was when we broke graham crackers into individual squares
    and stuck them one at a time under the liquid Nitrogen for about 10 seconds. Then we
    removed the square with tongs and waved it in the air for about 10 seconds and dorpped
    into the student's hand and an told them to crew it up quickly. When the chewing
    started the water vapor began to come out of their nose and mouth, and they started
    laughing which really issued quite a cloud. A great end to a presentation and much
    easier to clean-up than an ice cream party.


  • John Jacob Jinglehimer Schmit tells a weird story:

    I've got quit a bit of house mice in my neighborhood. One day when freezing stuff with
    LN2, i found a dead mouse outside on my driveway (not run over, or half eaten, or
    anything bloody). i was curious to see what the LN2 wold do it it. So i got a tweeser,
    picked it up, and left it in the cup of LN2 for about 10-15 seconds. When i took it
    out, i found that it had froze solid, like a chunk of ice. I then tossed it to the
    ground and it shattered. Pieces of frozen mouse scattered across my driveway. It was
    not at all bloody, and some of the pieces were actually sharp!!!


  • From Dan Mcfarland (Holden, MA) I received the following:

    "Dippin' Dots" Ice Cream!!!!!
    Ever have any of that ice cream that's commonly sold at fairs that's a dish of little ice
    cream BB's? Here's how to make them (or a close approximation) with liquid nitrogen!

    Start out with liquid ice cream (either make your own, or melt some that you bought at
    the store). Then just dribble the cream into a bowl of liquid nitrogen, stirring as
    vigorously as you can without splashing liquid nitrogen on your hands. As you stir, your
    goal is to keep the droplets of cream from floating and combining with adjacent droplets.
    After a while, you will have a slurry of little ice cream pellets mixed up with the LN.
    After there's no more room for more pellets, pour off the LN and put your "Dippin' Dots"
    into the freezer. Be careful to let the ice cream warm up to freezer temperatures before
    you pop these little buggers into your mouth or you'll have them all super-glued to the
    inside of your mouth. Take it from someone who's done it.


  • Thomas Wootten proposes:

    Some things you might like to try with LN:

    Fill a cup or something with it, make sure it's
    vaporising pretty rapidly, then put it near a boiler.
    Whoever comes along will think the boiler's gone
    wrong!

    You COULD leave it anywhere I suppose.
    ---------------
    If you get a strong magnet and a superconductor that
    works at LN temps, cool the superoncductor and the
    magnet will levitate. Well known but still cool
    ---------------
    NOT LN but dry ice: Chuck it in a swimming pool, at
    the deep end. OK so it's not LN but it's still cool.
    Most of the 'bombs' are best done with dry ice rather
    than LN, but if that's what you've got.
    ---------------
    Chuck it out of a high building and people will think
    it's boiling water.
    ---------------


  • Jay Ryan from Cleveland, Ohio, USA recently wrote to me:

    [...] I was a TA for physics labs when I was working on my undergrad in Physics 20 years
    ago. My cohorts and I (many of whom are now respected professors) froze all manner of
    objects in LN2. We found the best results worked with an orange slice, though I imagine
    an entire peeled orange would work even better. We froze the slice and then tossed it
    at the lab blackboard. It shattered into a million shards, making a tinkling sound like
    breaking glass. And the shards immediately thawed to orange pulp all over the floor!


    There was an old urban legend in those days of some unknown students at some unnamed
    university who froze a dead cat overnight in LN2. The next day, they went to a
    "friend's" dorm room and shattered it on the wall. It allegedly thawed into a bloody,
    chunky mess. I heard no specifics about this rumor, and I rather doubt it would really
    have happened that way. I would expect that a frozen cat would break the wall instead
    of shattering. But it's a great story anyway!


  • Jörg Brutscher from Grosserkmannsdorf writes:

    I accidentally stumbled over the page with all the weird stuff to do with LN2, but I
    did not find my favourite application: In academics (or at least at the institute
    where I studied) are normally a lot of occasions (birthday, thesis finished ect.) to
    drink sparkling wine or champagne. Sometime you may not have the time to cool the
    bottles in the frigde before serving. In this case, fill all the glasses with warm
    champagne, add a few ml of LN2 to each glass and serve immediately, while the LN2 is
    still steaming. This one is really cool.



    Please email me if you have any fancy ideas to be published about what else can be done with liquid nitrogen. This site is growing only by your support!


    Related information is also available here. ... and of course at Wiki.

    This page is now even more famous due to Physics Today: "Web watch" of December 1999


    Con Zymaris (Australia) is citing this web-page in the
    March 2002 issue of the Australian Unix Users Group Newsletter (AUUGN), pp. 23-25.


    Roger Carlson points out: 'saw your page today (wed [02/27/02]) on good morning silicon valley ['Off Topic']'. http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/business/columnists/gmsv/


    Jonathan Overholt indicated to me, that this page was LOTD on Monday 03/04/02:


    http://www.userfriendly.org


    Links to this page are found on the following web-pages (this list is not exhaustive):

    Pigdog Journal External Links

    Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things

    Phun Physics - Demonstrations

    Atoms for Kids

    Backup Brain

    Roger W. Bland's Home Page

    Shift - Filter:daily selections of the web

    Uncertain Principles

    Wikipedia: Azoto

    Uren.Dagen.Nachten

    Blue Room technical forum

    Nitrogen Gun


  • Attention! Working with liquid nitrogen may be dangerous!!! I hereby state that I am not liable or take any responsibility for damages or injuries caused by information or suggestions on this page!


    Original credit for this compilation in an early stage (18 entries or so) goes to Frank Illenberger (fillenbe_at_th.physik.uni-frankfurt.de); substantially extended and maintained by me with the invaluable help of various sources...