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Autostart: Yes No. Width px :. Player Preview:. Copy and Paste:. At elevated temperatures, nitrous oxide is a powerful oxidizer similar to molecular oxygen. It is soluble in water. Nitrous oxide has significant medical uses , especially in surgery and dentistry , for its anaesthetic and pain reducing effects. Its colloquial name "laughing gas", coined by Humphry Davy , is due to the euphoric effects upon inhaling it, a property that has led to its recreational use as a dissociative anaesthetic.
It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines , the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system. Nitrous oxide occurs in small amounts in the atmosphere, but has been found to be a major scavenger of stratospheric ozone , with an impact comparable to that of CFCs.
Nitrous oxide may be used as an oxidizer in a rocket motor. This is advantageous over other oxidisers in that it is much less toxic, and due to its stability at room temperature is also easier to store and relatively safe to carry on a flight. As a secondary benefit, it may be decomposed readily to form breathing air. Its high density and low storage pressure when maintained at low temperature enable it to be highly competitive with stored high-pressure gas systems.
In a patent, American rocket pioneer Robert Goddard suggested nitrous oxide and gasoline as possible propellants for a liquid-fuelled rocket. The combination of nitrous oxide with hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene fuel has been used by SpaceShipOne and others. It also is notably used in amateur and high power rocketry with various plastics as the fuel.
Nitrous oxide also may be used in a monopropellant rocket. In a vacuum thruster, this may provide a monopropellant specific impulse I sp of as much as s. While noticeably less than the I sp available from hydrazine thrusters monopropellant or bipropellant with dinitrogen tetroxide , the decreased toxicity makes nitrous oxide an option worth investigating.
In vehicle racing , nitrous oxide often referred to as just " nitrous " allows the engine to burn more fuel by providing more oxygen during combustion. The increase in oxygen allows for an increase in the injection of fuel, allowing the engine to produce more engine power. Therefore, it often is mixed with another fuel that is easier to deflagrate. Nitrous oxide is a strong oxidising agent, roughly equivalent to hydrogen peroxide, and much stronger than oxygen gas.
Sometimes nitrous oxide is injected into or prior to the intake manifold, whereas other systems directly inject, right before the cylinder direct port injection to increase power. Originally meant to provide the Luftwaffe standard aircraft with superior high-altitude performance, technological considerations limited its use to extremely high altitudes.
Accordingly, it was only used by specialised planes such as high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft , high-speed bombers and high-altitude interceptor aircraft.
It sometimes could be found on Luftwaffe aircraft also fitted with another engine-boost system, MW 50 , a form of water injection for aviation engines that used methanol for its boost capabilities. One of the major problems of using nitrous oxide in a reciprocating engine is that it can produce enough power to damage or destroy the engine.
Very large power increases are possible, and if the mechanical structure of the engine is not properly reinforced, the engine may be severely damaged, or destroyed, during this kind of operation. It is very important with nitrous oxide augmentation of petrol engines to maintain proper operating temperatures and fuel levels to prevent "pre-ignition",  or "detonation" sometimes referred to as "knock".
Most problems that are associated with nitrous oxide do not come from mechanical failure due to the power increases. Since nitrous oxide allows a much denser charge into the cylinder, it dramatically increases cylinder pressures.
The increased pressure and temperature can cause problems such as melting the piston or valves. It also may crack or warp the piston or head and cause pre-ignition due to uneven heating.
Automotive-grade liquid nitrous oxide differs slightly from medical-grade nitrous oxide. A small amount of sulfur dioxide SO 2 is added to prevent substance abuse. Its most common uses in this context are in aerosol whipped cream canisters and cooking sprays. The gas is extremely soluble in fatty compounds. In aerosol whipped cream, it is dissolved in the fatty cream until it leaves the can, when it becomes gaseous and thus creates foam.
Used in this way, it produces whipped cream which is four times the volume of the liquid, whereas whipping air into cream only produces twice the volume. If air were used as a propellant, oxygen would accelerate rancidification of the butterfat, but nitrous oxide inhibits such degradation.
Carbon dioxide cannot be used for whipped cream because it is acidic in water, which would curdle the cream and give it a seltzer-like "sparkling" sensation. The whipped cream produced with nitrous oxide is unstable, however, and will return to a more liquid state within half an hour to one hour. During December , some manufacturers reported a shortage of aerosol whipped creams in the United States due to an explosion at the Air Liquide nitrous oxide facility in Florida in late August.
With a major facility offline, the disruption caused a shortage resulting in the company diverting the supply of nitrous oxide to medical clients rather than to food manufacturing. The shortage came during the Christmas and holiday season when canned whipped cream use is normally at its highest. Similarly, cooking spray , which is made from various types of oils combined with lecithin an emulsifier , may use nitrous oxide as a propellant.
Other propellants used in cooking spray include food-grade alcohol and propane. Nitrous oxide has been used in dentistry and surgery, as an anaesthetic and analgesic, since Nitrous oxide is a weak general anaesthetic , and so is generally not used alone in general anaesthesia, but used as a carrier gas mixed with oxygen for more powerful general anaesthetic drugs such as sevoflurane or desflurane.
The use of nitrous oxide in anaesthesia, however, can increase the risk of postoperative nausea and vomiting. The patient is kept conscious throughout the procedure, and retains adequate mental faculties to respond to questions and instructions from the dentist. Inhalation of nitrous oxide is used frequently to relieve pain associated with childbirth , trauma , oral surgery and acute coronary syndrome includes heart attacks.
Its use during labour has been shown to be a safe and effective aid for birthing women. In Britain and Canada, Entonox and Nitronox are used commonly by ambulance crews including unregistered practitioners as a rapid and highly effective analgesic gas. The rapid reversibility of its effect would also prevent it from precluding diagnosis.
Starting in the nineteenth century, widespread availability of the gas for medical and culinary purposes allowed the recreational use to expand greatly throughout the world.
In the United Kingdom, as of , nitrous oxide was estimated to be used by almost half a million young people at nightspots, festivals and parties. Widespread recreational use of the drug throughout the UK was featured in the Vice documentary Inside The Laughing Gas Black Market , in which journalist Matt Shea met with dealers of the drug who stole it from hospitals,  although with nitrous oxide canisters being readily available online, the incidents of hospital theft are expected to be extremely rare.
A significant issue cited in London's press is the effect of nitrous oxide canister littering, which is highly visible and causes significant complaint from communities. The major safety hazards of nitrous oxide come from the fact that it is a compressed liquefied gas, an asphyxiation risk and a dissociative anaesthetic.
While relatively non-toxic, nitrous oxide has a number of recognised ill effects on human health, whether through breathing it in or by contact of the liquid with skin or eyes.
Nitrous oxide is a significant occupational hazard for surgeons, dentists and nurses. Because nitrous oxide is minimally metabolised in humans with a rate of 0.
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