Liquid Nitrogen Demonstrations

Safety Notes & Concerns

Liquid nitrogen is a dangerous material. The following is an excerpt from the Air Products Nitrogen Material Safety Data Sheet:

A back of the envelope calculation indicates that the entire contents of a 10 Liter dewar being spilled in a unventilated 274 square foot room with an 8 foot ceiling would reduce oxygen levels below the 19.5% level where Air Products recommends the use of a respirator. Since most classrooms are larger than this, suffocation does not represent a major danger. When transporting the liquid in a car, however, it is probably a good idea to open a window.

The possibility of freeze burns represents a much more serious danger and is therefore our first concern. This does not mean that the demonstration itself is dangerous, but it does mean you must be careful. Dangers include:

Therefore specific safety precautions should include:

Teachers should familiarize themselves with the following first aid instructions (excerpted from the Air Products Nitrogen Material Safety Data Sheet) for cryogenic freeze burns just in case the worst happens:

If cryogenic liquid or cold boil off contacts a worker's skin or eyes, frozen tissues should be flooded or soaked with tepid water (105-115F, 41-46C). DO NOT USE HOT WATER. Cryogenic burns which result in blistering or deeper tissue freezing should be seen promptly by a physician.

Remember to stress the importance of not touching liquid nitrogen or frozen objects.

See also Liquid Nitrogen Safetygram (in pdf format - see below) from Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

Note: the Liquid Nitrogen Safetygram above requires Adobe Acrobat Reader which is available for free download.

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