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Liquid Nitrogen Facts

Learn About Liquid Nitrogen

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This is a photo of liquid nitrogen. You can see the nitrogen is boiling off into the air.

This is a photo of liquid nitrogen. You can see the nitrogen is boiling off into the air.

David Monniaux This is a tank of liquid nitrogen.

This is a tank of liquid nitrogen.

Jeffrey M. Vinocur

Liquid nitrogen is nitrogen that is cold enough to exist in liquid form. It is used for many cooling and cryogenic applications. Here are some liquid nitrogen facts and information about handling liquid nitrogen safely.

Liquid Nitrogen Facts

  • Liquid nitrogen is the liquefied form of the element nitrogen that is commercially produced by fractional distillation of liquid air.

     

  • Sometimes liquid nitrogen is denoted as LN2, LN, or LIN.

     

  • Liquid nitrogen has the UN number 1977.

     

  • At normal pressure, liquid nitrogen boils at 77 K (−195.8°C or −320.4°F).

     

  • The liquid to gas expansion ratio of nitrogen is 1:694, which means liquid nitrogen boils to fill a volume with nitrogen gas very quickly.

     

  • Nitrogen is non-toxic, odorless, and colorless. It is relatively inert. It is not flammable.

     

  • Nitrogen gas is slightly lighter than air once it reaches room temperature. It is slightly soluble in water.

     

Liquid Nitrogen Safety
  • Liquid nitrogen is cold enough to cause severe frostbite upon contact with living tissue. Wear proper safety gear when handling liquid nitrogen to prevent contact or inhalation of extremely cold vapor. Make sure exposed skin surfaces are covered and preferably insulated.

     

  • Because it boils so rapidly, the phase transition from liquid to gas can generate a lot of pressure very quickly. Do not enclose liquid nitrogen in a sealed container, as this may result in bursting or an explosion.

     

  • Adding a lot of nitrogen to the air reduces the relative amount of oxygen. This can result in an asphyxiation risk. Cold nitrogen gas is heavier than air, so the risk is greatest near the ground. Use liquid nitrogen in a well-ventilated area.

     

  • Liquid nitrogen containers may accumulate oxygen which is condensed from the air. As the nitrogen evaporates, there is a risk of violent oxidation of organic matter.
Liquid Nitrogen Uses
  • Freezing and transport of food products.

     

  • Cryopreservation of biological samples.

     

  • Coolant for superconductors, vacuum pumps, and other materials and equipment.

     

  • Cryotherapy to remove skin abnormalities.

     

  • Shielding materials from oxygen exposure.

     

  • Cooling materials for easier machining or fracturing.

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