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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Get and Transport Liquid Nitrogen

By December 23, 2005

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There are a lot of fun and educational activities you can try using dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) and liquid nitrogen, but if you don't have access to a lab, you may not be sure how to get dry ice and liquid N2. One possibility is to ask a local college or hospital to give or sell you some. Another good option for dry ice is to ask for some from a restaurant or other company that you know does overnight shipping of perishable items. Otherwise, try looking in the yellow pages under "Gas-Industrial & Medical Cylinder" (that's the listing in my phonebook). Call these companies and ask if they will sell you small quantities.

Once you find a supplier, you need to be prepared to transport your material. You can put dry ice in a paper bag and place it in a cooler or other insulated container. For liquid nitrogen, you want an insulated container with a lid that doesn't make an air-tight seal. Some companies will sell you a dewar or special thermos made just for this purpose. Another idea is to use a big insulated plastic coffee mug. The mug is nice because it has a small hole at the top to prevent pressure buildup of vaporizing nitrogen, plus it has the advantage of being inexpensive. You can get about as much dry ice as you think you will need, because it doesn't sublime too quickly when insulated. Get a bit more liquid nitrogen than you will need for your project, because it evaporates rapidly.


October 20, 2008 at 3:57 pm
(1) safety warnings says:

Be aware that LN2 in an enclosed space (like an elevator, or a car) can displace breathable air and cause passing out or asphyxiation. Roll down the windows.

Spilled LN2 can go into the shoes and destroy human tissue, or cause rings and watchbands to adhere to flesh.

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