Nitrous oxide applications

Aplicaciones del protóxido de nitrogeno

When it comes to chemical compounds, it’s common to scrunch up your face a bit since the names alone tend to cause confusion. The good thing is that many of them are not so much known by their scientific names, but by their commercial name. A good example is nitrous oxide, more popular as “laughing gas”, a molecule with very diverse applications in different sectors.

And we are not exaggerating. To give an example, nitrous oxide is widely used as an anesthetic in surgical or dental procedures, but it is also particularly useful for the automotive industry. So, as suppliers of this gas, we cannot do less than offer information on its different uses. In the following article we will talk about these and other lesser known.

About nitrous oxide

First, let’s introduce the compound. Nitrogen protoxide, nitrous oxide or laughing gas, is a colorless gas, but with a particularly sweet smell. It is slightly toxic, but this does not prevent it from being used with some frequency in medical settings as an anesthetic. And although it is not flammable or explosive like others, in adequate concentrations it can support combustion.

Despite all these properties, its use must be very smart for a very worrying reason. Nitrogen oxide is a major contributor to global warming, a problem that many policies currently exist to combat. It also influences the availability of stratospheric ozone.

Main uses

As we have already indicated, nitrous oxide is mainly known for its medicinal properties, which have been used for more than 150 years. However, it has a wider application range in different fields; among them, the automotive industry, dentistry, surgical procedures and even in psychology as a treatment for certain mood declines.

As an anesthetic in medicine and dentistry

Medicinal nitrous oxide is an inhalable anesthetic, with immediate action and low risk of allergic reactions or other side effects. It has a supraspinal action with euphoric effects that have earned it the nickname “laughing gas”. And it is that it can relax patients (anxiolytic properties) that their mood can change to a suddenly cheerful one after its administration.

It is also frequently used in dentistry. It is known that the gas tends to produce pleasurable sensations that can help the patient to relax before a dental procedure. Despite this, he maintains the ability to respond to questions or instructions from the professional who attends him. Although this, of course, goes hand in hand with the concentrations of nitrous oxide used.

In fact, clear conditions have been established to be able to use it as an anesthetic drug during any medical procedure. For example, it is administered together with oxygen using specific devices to protect both the patient and the health workers, among them, non-return valves or specific ventilation systems in the operating room to limit environmental contamination.

Automotive industry

Nitrous oxide is also popular in the automotive industry precisely because of its low flammability. Currently, it participates in the modification of conventional cars to increase their power, although under certain well-defined conditions.

Its form of action is simple. The molecular chain of nitrous oxide breaks down as combustion proceeds in the vehicle chamber. Consequently, the available oxygen increases and, if followed, the potency of this increases. But it is also used as a thermal buffer in these processes.

As a potential treatment for depression

And finally, a lesser known but noteworthy app. Some studies suggest that nitrous oxide can be used as a treatment for depression, or at least part of one. This is surprising considering its temporary anesthetic and anxiolytic properties, however, there is a possibility that they may spread with proper management.

In 2021, a study compared the administration of nitrous oxide in two different doses, the patients were people with depression and resistance to standard treatment. In both cases, symptoms improved, although those who received a higher concentration showed more side effects. And although research must continue, this is undoubtedly one of the most important uses.

As a propellant in food sprays and professional chefs

Of course, we could not forget to mention the use of nitrous oxide in one of the most important industries in the world, food. In this category it is mainly used as a propellant gas in aerosol products. A clear example of this is its use in whipped cream, in which the cartridges of this component are used to convert the cream into foam.

Also, many professional chefs use nitrous oxide; also known in the industry as nitrous oxide in the preparation of aerated dishes. Because this component is odorless, colorless, and also has no taste, It is one of the ideal ingredients in the world of professional cooking.

Some of the dishes in which nitrous oxide is usually used are for the preparation of whipped cream and merengues of all kinds of colors and flavors. Also, many professionals often use it to prepare Belgian waffles and for pancakes, because it makes the dough more aerated.

One of the reasons nitrous oxide is ideal for use in cooking is because it does not react during the process of use. It is very safe, even when used for the preparation of different dishes.

■ Communication Team

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