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yoshiiz's avatar

What are other safe elements with characteristics alike to liquid nitrogen?

Asked by yoshiiz (3points) May 3rd, 2011

I am testing for the Leidenfrost Effect so I am wondering what other elements that is not harmful could be used in my experiment that is alike to liquid nitrogen.

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22 Answers

YoBob's avatar

Not sure I understand the question. The thing that makes liquid nitrogen unsafe is the fact that it is quite cold, and it is this very property that I’m guessing you need in your experiment.

yoshiiz's avatar

Liquid nitrogen is actually safe if you are not in contact with it for a long period of time.

yoshiiz's avatar

And yes, I’d need the “cold” property.

YoBob's avatar

So, are you just looking for other ways to get something really cold?

Dry Ice will get you to around -56.5C. However, this isn’t even close to liquid nitrogen, which boils (depending on the pressure) at around -196C.

yoshiiz's avatar

But again, would dry ice give me Leidenfrost Effect?

YoBob's avatar

I doubt it since you need a cold liquid, not a cold solid. Why don’t you just use liquid nitrogen?

thorninmud's avatar

Liquid argon and liquid helium are both inert, non-toxic, and very cold. Both would be harder to get than liquid nitrogen, though.

cazzie's avatar

Um… Water droplets dancing about on a hotplate demonstrate Leidenfrost Effect.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Liquid nitorgen is not “quite safe”!
It kills more lab workers yearly than every other chemical put together.

YoBob's avatar


Yep, what @cazzie said.

s321scba's avatar

as long as the part of the material that is heated can escape, this “insulating” effect will be experineced in proportion to the energy carried away by heated material the effect severely increases as materials change state

BhacSsylan's avatar

@Lightlyseared Wait, it what context? Sorry, as a lab worker who uses liquid nitrogen I’ve never heard of it being very hazardous at all before, so I’m wondering how i missed it. Without being stupid, it’s pretty hard to hurt yourself with it in any way I’ve used it.

Also, are we talking about the storage and transport, or direct use? Because they’re a little different. Liquid nitrogen can be very dangerous when transporting, but no more so then any liquified gas, it’s just used a lot more, and so has more casualties as a result. The actual direct use is quite safe as long as you don’t, say, drink it or hold your hand in it for an extended period.

As for leidenfrost, all you really need is a temperature differential. Liquid nitrogen and pretty much anything will work, or likewise a very hot surface and something more mundane like water as @cazzie said.

As far as cold liquids, there’s not a lot that will work all that well. Other gasses are hard to acquire, more dangerous, and probably much more expensive. Why do you need something else? Just another example? If it’s just one, the water and hotplate would probably work fine. And then you can show that a surface at a lower temp, below the Leidenfrost point, will evaporate faster. You can’t really show that with liquid nitrogen since the leidenfrost point is still quite cold.

WasCy's avatar


It would be enough just to be “ignorant”. You wouldn’t have to go so far as “stupid”. Here’s a page to start with.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@BhacSsylan because it turns in nitrogen gas. Which is not oxygen. Also it turns into a lot of nitrogen gas which means it can rapidly replace a rooms volume of breathable air. You only need to reduce the volume of O2 by 3–4% and it will start to have an effect. At high concentrations nitrogen can kill in under 60 seconds. Standard practice is to work in a well ventialated area and never work alone (the idea being if there is a leak it will effect people at different rates).. Seriously if you are working in a lab with LN then your empoyer has a duty of care to tell you this stuff. Also you gotta wonder what else they shoulda told you but haven’t.

BhacSsylan's avatar

@Lightlyseared Okay, i see the issue. “well ventilated’ is not an issue for me, as I am in a chemistry lab and we have very large amount of hoods that exchange the air very quickly. Also, volumes are rather low for my work. I suppose I was considering the effects of the liquid on the body, and didn’t think about the volume of gas issue since it rarely comes up for me. Also, considering I have given you little information on the subject, please don’t be jumping to conclusions about employer, thanks.

@WasCy To be fair, all but the asphyxiation issue do require you to be stupid. Trapped gas shouldn’t be an issue, and neither should frostbite or swallowing. I will admit the asphyxiation issue would be a problem in an area not used to dealing with the issue, though.

WasCy's avatar


To be fair, if you haven’t been trained in how to use something this cold, and don’t realize it, the extreme cold of liquid nitrogen can cause burns as severe as hot oil. That’s not stupidity, it’s just ignorance. Did you read about the proper handling of vials in liquid nitrogen? Were you born knowing that?

BhacSsylan's avatar

@WasCy No, I have never been exposed to it without there being someone around to say “this is damn cold”. But, if you somehow get a cylinder of liquid nitrogen without having some kind of knowledge on the subject then there’s some breakdown somewhere.

However, read the article you site. You can old get frostbite in extreme cases, like submerging your hand in it, or getting it over your clothes and not removing them. And that would have to be a pretty major spill on very tight clothing. Anything less merely gives something akin to a sunburn. A bad one, sure, but not life threatening. And if you’re prone to swallowing strange liquids, I can’t help you there.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@hiphiphopflipflapflop This is from a MSDS sheet:

Nitrogen is a nontoxic, odorless, colorless, nonflammable compressed gas stored in cylinders at high pressure. It can cause rapid suffocation when concentrations are sufficient to reduce oxygen levels below 19.5%. Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) may be required.

INHALATION: Simple asphyxiant. Nitrogen is nontoxic, but may cause suffocation by displacing the oxygen in air. Lack of sufficient oxygen can cause serious injury or death.
EYE CONTACT: No adverse effect.
MSDS # 1011

EFFECT: Asphyxiation (suffocation)
SYMPTOMS: Exposure to an oxygen deficient atmosphere (<19.5%) may cause dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, excess salivation, diminished mental alertness, loss of consciousness and death. Exposure to atmospheres containing 8–10% or less oxygen will bring about unconsciousness without warning and so quickly that the individuals cannot help themselves.
MEDICAL CONDITIONS AGGRAVATED BY OVEREXPOSURE: None CARCINOGENIC POTENTIAL: Nitrogen is not listed as a carcinogen or potential carcinogen by
INHALATION: Persons suffering from lack of oxygen should be moved to fresh air. If victim is not breathing, administer artificial respiration. If breathing is difficult, administer oxygen. Obtain prompt medical attention.
EYE CONTACT: Not applicable. SKIN CONTACT: Not applicable.

BhacSsylan's avatar

@Tropical_Willie You’ve given nothing that hasn’t already been said. It’s cold and can be an asphyxiant if not used in a properly ventillated area. Also, almost everything on that sheet says “not dangerous’, because it isn’t. And that’s pretty interesting, given that MSDS’s usually display extreme worst cases.

@hiphiphopflipflapflop was asking to see data about how it kills more workers then every other chemical. A claim I also find rather hard to swallow, to be fair, though having less interaction with it I was fine with taking @Lightlyseared‘s word for it.

cazzie's avatar

How did this get so off topic? We’re meant to educating this person about Leidenfrost Effect, not arguing about hazmat procedures (and with such condescension?).. come on, guys. I think we’re all professionals here.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

@cazzie I work with a nice big stainless steel tank containing liquid nitrogen just a few steps away from my chair every day. Like @BhacSsylan I am skeptical of the claim put forward by @Lightlyseared that LN2 “kills more lab workers yearly than every other chemical put together”. Given my situation, I could say I have a very big vested interest in this side question.

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