I Fully Submerge My Hand in Liquid Nitrogen!
2010-09-21 0:00

By Theodore Gray | Popsci.com



Protected By Science My hand is like a red-hot poker to the liquid nitrogen, but an insulating layer of nitrogen gas forms- a phenomenon known as the Leiden-frost effect- keeping my hand safe and warm for a fraction of a second. Mike Walker

When I first saw this photograph of a mans hand submerged in liquid nitrogen at somewhere below -320 F, my immediate thought was, That guy must be crazy! One second in that stuff, and youre shopping for new skin! My shock was tempered only slightly by the fact that it was my hand, and wed taken the picture just a minute earlier.



I hadnt realized that my hand was quite so deep into the liquid. Amazingly, I barely felt the cold at all. My skin didnt get hurt for the same reason that water droplets dance on a hot skillet. An insulating layer of steam forms almost instantly between the water and the metal, keeping the droplets relatively cool as they float for several seconds without actually touching the hot surface. To liquid nitrogen, flesh is like that skilleta surface hundreds of degrees above its boiling point. So the moment my hand touched the liquid, it created a protective layer of evaporated nitrogen gas, just as the skillet created a layer of steam. That gave me just enough time to put my hand in and pull it out again. Any longer than that, and frostbite would have set in.


Hot Water: Droplets on a very hot skillet take longer to evaporate than they would on a less-hot surface where no insulating gas layer forms. Mike Walker


The phenomenon is called the Leidenfrost effect (after Johann Gottlob Leidenfrost, the doctor who first studied it in 1756). Id known about it for years, but when it came time to test it in real life, I have to admit that I used my left hand, the one Id miss less.
I drew the line at another classic example of the effect. According to the books, its possible to stick a damp finger directly into molten lead without getting burned, if you do it fast enough. After some consideration, and remembering the times Ive been burned by molten lead, I decided that it probably wouldnt make a very good picture anyway.

ACHTUNG! Do not try this. If liquid nitrogen soaks into your clothes, you will not be protected by the Leidenfrost effect, and you can get frostbite very quickly.

Article from: popsci.com





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