HOW DOES LIQUID NITROGEN WORK?

HOW DOES LIQUID NITROGEN WORK?

Written on 02/16/2018
Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream


That is a very broad question. If you remember in our blog a few weeks ago we talked about how liquid nitrogen was discovered. We know that liquid nitrogen (LN2) is a liquid version of nitrogen (N2) gas. But what makes this liquid element different from any other liquid? Why does LN2 make that big billowy fog? Let’s find out.

Even though liquid nitrogen is incredibly cold (-346 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact), it can actually cause burn-like skin damage when handled incorrectly, so it should never be played with by children or irresponsible grownups, no matter how fun it looks. So how does a colder-than-cold liquid burn you?

But first, if you want to see liquid nitrogen in action, you know where to go! Find a Sub Zero Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream shop near you by heading over to our ice cream shop locator page.

THE BOILING POINT AND THE CLOUD

We know that if we put a pot of water on the stove, it will eventually get hot and boil, where the surface of the water will bubble and produce steam. Boiling happens when a substance reaches a certain temperature that causes it to turn to vapor. Water, for example, boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Alcohol boils at 151 degrees, which is why you alcohol “burns off” when you cook with it.  Liquid nitrogen, on the other hand, boils at a much colder temperature. Liquid nitrogen boils at -320 degrees. That means that as soon as LN2 leaves our special holders and hits the air, it instantly vaporizes because the air around it is so cold. This is also why you don’t have to worry about liquid nitrogen actually being INSIDE of your ice cream. It boils and becomes nitrogen gas, a completely harmless element. When you see a big white cloud where liquid nitrogen is poured, you are really seeing the vapor.

THE LEIDENFROST EFFECT

If you’ve ever seen liquid nitrogen poured on a surface, you will notice that it kind of dances around rather than creating a pool. This is due to what is called the Leidenfrost effect. Essentially, the phenomenon means that when a liquid comes into contact with a surface significantly higher than its boiling point, the liquid is insulated in a layer of vapor – so it doesn’t actually touch the surface initially.

WHAT ELSE IS LIQUID NITROGEN USED FOR?

While we use LN2 to make ice cream, the element is used for a variety of things from coolant for computers to removing warts at the doctor’s office by freezing them off. And of course, our favorite way to use liquid nitrogen is in science experiments! We’ll tell you about some of our favorite LN2 science experiments in a future post!

LIQUID NITROGEN ICE CREAM COMBINES SCIENCE AND FUN

Now that you know a little bit more about LN2, stop by one of our many locations for a demonstration and some unbelievable ice cream