Nitrous oxide – kills the pain and keeps up the speed

Nitrous oxide (N2O), commonly known as laughing gas, is a colourless, inflammable gas with a slightly sweet odour. It belongs to the group of nitrous gases discovered in 1773 by Joseph Priestly, whose discoveries also included oxygen. Its name refers to the gas’s capacity to bring about euphoria.

Used for medical purposes

Nitrous oxide has been used in the field of medicine for over 150 years. First used within dentistry, it was introduced by the American dentist Horace Wells in 1844. It is nowadays used daily in combination with oxygen in various fields such as anaesthesia, surgery, childbirth and painful small procedures. The nitrous oxide is rapidly taken up by the blood on inhalation. The gas is carried with the blood circulation to the organs of the body that receive and pass on pain impulses, for example the spine and brain. The pain impulses decrease at the same time as the release of
endorphins increases.

Development of UHD screens

The gas has also contributed to the cost-efficient development of nextgeneration displays, such as UHD 3D, TFT-LCD and OLED. By utilising metal oxides, it is possible to increase electron mobility by a factor of up to 40 in comparison with conventional polysilicon technology, at roughly the same price. The manufacturing of metal oxide transistors requires large volumes of highly pure N2O. In a process unique to electronics, the gas is used to create a functional layer of microscopic thin-film transistors necessary to control each one of the millions of pixels which make up the visual image.

Keeping up the speed in drag racing

As nitrous oxide maintains combustion slightly better than air, it is used in specific nitrous oxide systems in which gas is sprayed into the engine intake in order to increase its output. As the engine heats up, the nitrous oxide breaks down into oxygen and nitrogen, increasing the oxygen supply to the engine and thereby boosting output. The nitrogen which forms during breakdown of the nitrous oxide has a somewhat cooling effect on the engine, reducing the risk of overheating which is normally associated with increasing output.Nitrous oxide systems are mainly used in drag racing and street racing.

Nitrous oxide

molar mass: 44.01 g/mol
density: 1.98 kg/dm3
covalent radius: 71/66 pm
number of electrons: 22
vapor pressure: 50.59 mbar
melting point: 182.35 K
boiling point: 184.65

By: Cecilia Rudengren
Photo: Shutterstock