Liquid nitrogen can do some really cool things. We found these videos from Jefferson Labs on Mental Floss. The team there just loves playing with liquid nitrogen. They have a whole series of YouTube videos.
We put together some awesome GIFs from their videos that demonstrate some of the coolest (heh heh) liquid nitrogen properties.
Liquid nitrogen is made of two nitrogen atoms bonded into a molecule, just like the nitrogen in the air. The only difference is that it is a liquid instead of a gas because it's kept colder than its boiling point — the temperature at which liquid turns into a gas.
Liquid nitrogen is really cold — it boils at negative 321 degrees Fahrenheit. (Water boils at 212 Fahrenheit, which is why you need to heat it to turn it into steam.)
So because liquid nitrogen is so much colder than room temperature, if you spill it then it instantly boils and turns into a gas. Makes for an easy cleanup.
But if you spill it on a smooth surface, you could have other problems:
Something called the Leidenfrost Effect makes liquid nitrogen skitter across surfaces like this, as the liquid touching the smooth surface boils and holds the rest of the droplet away from the warmth.
The Leidenfrost Effect is a cool phenomenon that happens when something really cold — like liquid nitrogen — comes into contact with something much hotter than its boiling point. A layer of vapor forms between the liquid nitrogen and the hotter surface that keeps the liquid nitrogen from boiling right away.
You would expect that touching something so cold would mean instant frostbite. But the Leidenfrost Effect can protect you as long as you don't stay in contact with the liquid nitrogen for too long. The GIF below is actually from a NerdRage video, "Hand vs. Liquid Nitrogen — Revisited"
Even pouring small amount of liquid nitrogen into your hand won't hurt, as long as you get a few seconds of recovery time between pours.
Liquid nitrogen can also make things like this Koosh ball implode. The volume of the gas inside the ball decreases when it gets colder, so it makes sense that the koosh ball shrinks as it gets colder.
The liquid nitrogen leaves the ball so cold that it shatters when its dropped on the table.
Nitrogen gas produced by the boiling liquid is heavier than air, so it decreases the amount of oxygen in the air. You can see it snuff out a flame (which requires oxygen) as the N2 gas fills the bottom of this container.
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- Liquid nitrogen
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