Stupid Things to do with Liquid Nitrogen

I like explosions. I think a lot of chemists get into chemistry because of the excitement of sodium in water or the Thermite reaction. But it is all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Or a hand.

Paul at ChemBark posted a video of someone messing with liquid nitrogen. Go watch it if you haven’t already. Myself, I sat there literally stunned afterwards, possibly for as long as the video itself was – a historic ratio. I could not believe how dumb the people shooting the video were being.

The lack of any kind of appropriate protective equipment is the first sign (the single latex glove when the fool picks up the bottle again doesn’t quite count). The lack of any consideration about what might go wrong is another. They at least were not idiotic enough to use a glass bottle for their little experiment.

The point here is that most accidents happen when the person involved does not consider the consequence or simply does not understand what is going on in the flask and what that means. In this case, liquid nitrogen becoming gaseous nitrogen. The transition from liquid to gas creates pressure. The extremely low temperature of the liquid nitrogen certainly caused the plastic of the bottle to become brittle. The touch of the warm hand more than likely caused a weak point to form, setting off the destruction that followed.

Controlled explosions – fireworks for example – are definitely fun. I’ll even go for a dry ice in a bottle explosion for some silly entertainment, but I’ll make sure it is WAY over there and I am safely over here.

This entry was posted in safety.

2 comments on “Stupid Things to do with Liquid Nitrogen

  1. Paul says:

    The part where he picks up the bottle is where I start yelling at the screen. Very lucky indeed!

    I think another possible contribution to add to your explanation of how the bottle failed when the guy picked it up is because he tilted it such that the liquid came into contact with a much warmer part of the plastic. Hand warmth + tilting + bottle already near its limits = boom

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