Watch Liquid Nitrogen Shoot 1500 Ping-Pong Balls Into the Air [VIDEO]
I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but I’ve always been fascinated by science and how things react. So when I saw this video of a professor at Plymouth University in England showing how volatile liquid nitrogen can get when it warms to room temperature, I had to watch.
Most people know liquid nitrogen has the chemical that freezes practically anything on contact. It’s used to keep frozen food frozen during transportation and cryopreservation, among other things. It “boils” at -320.4°F and turns from liquid to gas quickly when brought to room temperature. The last fact being key to the experiment in the video.
To show his students the power of the pressure generated by liquid nitrogen’s liquid to gas transition, the professor simply pours the chemical into a plastic water bottle, places it in a bucket of warm water to speed up the process, drops the whole thing in a trash can, and pours 1,500 ping pong balls on top of it.
From what I can tell, the ping pong balls have no bearing on the experiment, they are only there for show — and what a show it is!
This reminds me of when I was a Boy Scout (Troop 399, represent!) and one of the older guys in the troop, who was a soft spoken, nerdy-science guy, brought a canister of liquid nitrogen to a meeting for a “science corner” kind of thing. In reality, it was more like a science-time show and tell. The point being, he took random items, dipped them into the liquid nitrogen, then would drop them on the ground to show the chemical reaction it produced. The example that sticks out most in my head was when he took a blue racquetball, bounced on the ground a few times, presumably to remind us how rubber and concrete work, dropped it in the nitrogen, then tossed it into the air once again. Only this time, the rubber-meets-concrete reaction was different. There was no bounce. The ball simply shattered into several pieces like glass or ice would. After giving it a few minutes to return to its normal temperature, each piece was back to its stretchy, bendable self. As a 12-year-old kid, that was, and still is, pretty cool.