Liquid Nitrogen Fun!

About this Lesson by CUOS graduate students
Recommended Ages: Later Elementary, Middle School, High School
NOTE: This is really a Wandering Wizard activity, since it requires special materials. We include it as a lesson due to popular demand but, if you find liquid nitrogen to try it yourself, BE CAREFUL!

Try looking in the Yellow Pages or similar references under “Gas - Industrial & Medical.”

pouring liquid nitrogen

Guiding Questions:

What is liquid nitrogen?
How do different materials behave under extremely cold temperatures?







Note: Some of these are specialized materials.

  1. Copper Pennies (post-1985)
  2. Balloon
  3. Banana
  4. Mixing Bowl
  5. Dry Ice
  6. Flower
  7. Goggles
  8. Hammer, nails and wood board
  9. Ice Cream Mix - Here’s one recipe
  10. Liquid Nitrogen
  11. Strong Mixing Spoon
  12. Tongs
  13. Gloves
  14. Water
  15. Whatever else you can think of to freeze and smash

Room Preparation

Set up chairs and desks in a semi circle so that all students can see the demonstration.

Safety Precautions

Need to be careful when handling nitrogen and extremely cold materials, which can cause frostbite or damage eyes. Also, be sure that everyone is wearing goggles to protect their eyes from flying pieces when smashing things. Keep faces away from bowls of nitrogen, which poses a suffocation hazard due to its oxygen displacement characteristics.

Procedures and Activity


  1. Understanding liquids and gases
  2. Properties of liquid nitrogen


Smashing Experiments

Smashing things is the first phase. Dip various things into liquid nitrogen until frozen and see what happens to them. Many materials will become brittle when cold. Others will get stronger when cold.

Why do some things get brittle while others, like the banana, seem to get stronger?

Other Experiments

shrinking a full balloon

Making Ice Cream

The Process A Simple Recipe
Put the ice cream mix into a bowl, pour in some liquid nitrogen, and stir. 2 cups whipping cream
Continue stirring and adding liquid nitrogen until the mixture is thick. 2 cups light cream
Why do you need to keep stirring? 4-8 tsp vanilla flavoring
Eat the resulting ice cream. 1 cup sugar

Closing - Original Questions

Ask again:
What is liquid nitrogen?
How do different materials behave under extremely cold temperatures?


Ask students to describe liquid-to-gas transitions and gas-to-liquid transitions. Have students share what they observed and learned about liquid nitrogen and materials that become very cold. Review what they observed from smashing things, doing activities and making ice cream. Listen for evidence that they understand the effect of cold temperature on materials.

Extension Ideas

Explore the properties of liquid nitrogen by conducting more experiments and researching to learn about pressure versus temperature relationships, liquid to gas transitions, and insulating properties of gas.

Careers Related to Lesson Topic

Prerequisite Vocabulary

A fluid with no shape or volume that can expand indefinitely

Something that is free flowing, takes the shape of its container and has a definite volume

A colorless, tasteless, odorless, gas element found in our atmosphere

The particular characteristics or traits of something

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Last amended 29 Sep 03