If you insert a bare lightbulb filament inserted in liquid nitrogen and turn on the power, will it light up?
Liquid nitrogen is very cold, 320 degrees below zero Fahrenheit! That’s cold enough to give you frostbite in seconds. See what happens when we dunk various things into such a cold liquid.
What better way to determine the caloric content of food than to burn it with liquid oxygen? There are more exacting ways of course, but the flames (and smells) created this way are pretty impressive. Check it out!
If you fill a plastic bottle with a small amount of liquid nitrogen, seal the bottle, then let the gas expand, you get an explosion. If you pour 30 gallons or so of plastic balls on top of the bottle before it explodes, you get a Ballplosion! Check it out!
Using liquid nitrogen, which boils at -320 degrees, we make a batch of tasty ice cream in less than 2 minutes.
The Space Shuttle Tile
The Space Shuttle is covered with a layer of insulating tiles that help protect the shuttle from the extreme temperatures its experienced during re-entry through the earths atmosphere. The temperatures can exceed 2,300 °F. In fact, the tiles are designed to withstand a transition from areas of extremely low temperature (the void of space, about −454 °F) to the high temperatures of re-entry typically around 2,910 °F.
Basic Rocket Science
At the simplest level, the launch of the shuttle or any rocket for that matter, is based on the concept of action and reaction. The fuel thrust out of the back of the shuttle is what propels the shuttle into space. A simple experiment you can do at home is a film canister filled with carbon dioxide gas. The gas is provided by the reaction of alka-seltzer with water. Drop a half-tablet into a small amount of water in a film canister, seal it tight, flip it over and then watch as it reaches for the sky!
Breathing on the Shuttle
Just how do the shuttle or space station astronauts get their air? Let’s do the math. A single breath can fill a small balloon. A typical adult has a respiration rate of around 15 breaths per minute. There are 60 minutes per hour. There are 24 hours per day. So on a typical day, an astronaut will need:
(15 breaths/minute)*(60 minutes/hour)*(24 Hours/day) = 21,600 breaths/day.
If every breath is the size of a balloon, that’s a lot of balloons. Now imagine that many balloons for every person on the shuttle! The only way to bring that much air is to condense it to a liquid.
The shuttle is powered by a combination of solid fuel rockets and liquid fuel in the form of hydrogen and oxygen from the main fuel tank. What would happen if you used the strong oxidizing properties of oxygen to burn something like cheese puffs?
The BallSplostion = Liquid Nitrogen + Expansion in a Confined Space
We can’t launch our own Space Shuttle from the science center, but a new thing we have been playing around with is something we call the “BallSplosion”. A two liter bottle filled with more liquid nitrogen than the bottle can hold when the nitrogen expands into a gas. This involves a garbage can, liquid nitrogen, play balls, and … Well just watch the video to see what happens!
Is there a better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than to freeze some flowers in liquid nitrogen? Probably, but flash freezing flowers and then watching them break like glass is pretty cool. Read more
It’s March Madness and we are getting crazy ourselves by dunking a basketball in super cold liquid nitrogen. What happens when you cool a basketball down to 320 degrees below zero? Watch the video to find out. Read more