How is dry ice made: Temperature, disposal & dangers

When it comes to dry ice, the first thing that comes to mind is a long list of questions.

Around the dry ice is a dense cloud of mystery and uncertainty for many people. This cloud stops them from observing all the capabilities and properties of this unique material.

dry ice

It would be a shame for all the interesting and unique information about dry ice to remain unknown to the general public. We set out to shed some light on it with the help of this article and guide people through all the information. It’s a great, unique substance!

After reading this article, we hope that each reader will gain a wide range of knowledge on dry ice and its property.

After learning, the first question we must answer in our adventure is fundamental. What exactly is dry ice?

What is dry ice?

The name “dry ice” is most often used to describe this substance. It still has a name that represents its scientific structure.

This is “solid carbon dioxide,” which can also be abbreviated as “CO2”.

Now you may be wondering why it is abbreviated as “CO2”. You know from your general knowledge that this term is often used in association with a gas.

Maybe you’ve been wondering this – congratulations! It’s a very good question.

And the answer to that question is this:

  • Most solid objects melt when exposed to very high temperatures.
  • It does not melt when a high heat source is close to it, although considered a solid object.
  • Instead, it turns into gas. It’s the result of a chemical process called sublimation.
  • Hence its abbreviation for “CO2”, which is a gas.

What is it made of?

It is natural that once we have learned what it is, we should ask ourselves what it is made of.

And, what does it consist of?

If solid carbon dioxide is exposed to a large heat source, it will become gas.

And most of the processes in nature can be reversed, especially chemistry.

If we follow the reverse process, we can turn the gas into solid ice.

It answers our question.

Dry ice is made of gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), to be more precise.

And the process of forming it is simpler than you think.

First of all, we need a large amount of carbon dioxide. We will take and compress it through very high forces and at very low temperatures. All these processes take place under the action of high external pressures.

As a result of these activities, we will obtain carbon dioxide in liquid form.

So we took gas and compressed it a lot until it turned into a liquid.

All that remains to be done is take that liquid and turn it into a solid.

And how exactly do we do that?

This liquid is taken and placed in a compartment on which a low level of pressure is applied. It allows the liquid to expand and produce what is called “carbon dioxide snow.”

Finally, this “snow” is placed under a hydraulic press that applies very high pressure. It forms blocks, slices, or pellets of ice.

Is dry ice dangerous?

Once we know what it is and what it is made of, the next question is whether this substance can be used safely or dangerously. You don’t want to screw around with dry ice if you don’t know what you’re doing!

The safest place to use this substance is one where there is very good and adequate air circulation.

This condition of use is because solid carbon dioxide emits carbon dioxide, leading to asphyxiation in large quantities.

Therefore, all that carbon dioxide will accumulate inside the room and gradually increase suffocation risk if used indoors.

Following the use of this substance in an open place, this accumulation of carbon dioxide will be prevented with adequate air circulation. The risk of asphyxiation will be eliminated.

To avoid the risks, it is essential to know the first signs of asphyxiation in a person:

  • the presence of a headache
  • a slight confusion
  • disorientation
  • a high weight in the process of breathing
  • the skin begins to turn a bluish hue

Hazards can also be encountered if dry ice is stored inside sealed compartments.

Due to the release of carbon dioxide by dry ice, the pressure level exerted by it on the compartment walls can increase. Carbon dioxide gradually begins to accumulate inside the sealed container.

If the force exerted by the ever-increasing pressure exceeds a certain limit, that tank can burst.

The materials may behave differently when they first come in contact with solid carbon dioxide. It depends on their particularities.

The following can crack when they come in contact with it. It’s due to the large temperature difference between them and dry ice:

  • glass
  • ceramics
  • floor tiles
  • plastic

A material frequently used for transporting and storing solid carbon dioxide is Styrofoam.

This is due to the special qualities of this unique material, which gives it the following advantages:

  • It does not crack when in contact with solid carbon dioxide.
  • It provides excellent insulation.
  • It allows carbon dioxide to be emitted safely.

It may seem tempting to touch dry ice with bare hands and no protective equipment. You should think twice before doing so.

Suppose a hand touches a piece of dry ice without the protection provided by a protective glove. In that case, there is a good chance that it will suffer frostbite very quickly.

That is why any piece of solid carbon dioxide should be touched with great care. You should only do it with protective equipment and long pliers.

How to make dry ice?

You are probably now wondering if there is any way you can make your dry ice after learning so much about solid carbon dioxide.

We asked ourselves the same thing, to be honest. Our curiosity didn’t let us sleep peacefully at night until we found the answer. We kept looking for it until we found it.

And now, not only can we rest in peace at night. We can share this answer with you so you don’t have to waste time looking for it elsewhere.

The short answer is “yes.” It is possible to make solid carbon dioxide.

And the process of its formation is simple and easy to complete. At first, you might think that it is a complicated and twisted one. It turned out. It’s not the case.

The ingredients you need to do this little experiment are:

  • a pair of sturdy protective gloves
  • A fire extinguisher containing carbon dioxide. It’s to make sure it contains this gas. You need to check if it has CO2 written on it.
  • a cloth bag

And the steps you need to follow are:

  1. Carefully place the nozzle of the fire extinguisher inside the cloth bag. Make sure it is sealed as tightly as possible.

  2. Release the contents of the fire extinguisher inside the bag.

  3. Close the fire extinguisher valve after a considerable amount of carbon dioxide has accumulated inside the bag.

  4. Grab the bag tightly and shake it firmly.

  5. Take out the freshly formed dry ice from inside the bag and enjoy the results.

dry ice in use

What happens if you eat it?

It is very risky to touch solid carbon dioxide without the protection provided by proper protective equipment.

Well, do you know what’s even more dangerous than that?

If you don’t know, we’ll tell you.

Eating dry ice is dangerous!

A desire to ingest it may arise because it resembles ordinary stuff.

But the risks of ingesting dry ice are much higher than the risks of ingesting regular stuff.

Touching a piece of solid carbon dioxide without the protection of a special glove could cause frostbite.

But ingesting it could cause more problems than just frostbite, such as:

  • Freezing of the tissue of the mouth, esophagus, and stomach.
  • The carbon dioxide emission inside the stomach and its accumulation in large quantities. It could lead to its rupture by increasing the pressure applied to its walls.
  • Eventually, these processes could lead to death.

Can you store it in the freezer?

“Dry ice looks like normal ice in appearance, doesn’t it?”

“Even their name is similar.”

“And ordinary ice can be stored inside a freezer, can’t it?”

“This means that it can even be stored in a freezer.”

These are usually the thoughts of an ordinary person when he has a quantity of solid carbon dioxide that he has to store somewhere.

But unfortunately, these thoughts are completely wrong.

Dry ice should be stored in a very low-temperature environment.

And I know what you might think: There are low temperatures in the fridge.

True, the freezer can provide very low-temperature levels. This environment created by the refrigerator is not cold enough to stop the process of turning solid carbon dioxide into gas.

The temperature at which the solid carbon dioxide sublimation process takes place is -109.3 F.

So, the sublimation process is born at any temperature higher than that.

Compared to this low temperature, the inside of a freezer can be considered a warm environment.

Any solid carbon dioxide placed inside a freezer will immediately turn into gas.

The risk of losing dry ice is not the only one that arises when placed inside a freezer.

Any amount of dry ice placed in a closed compartment without good air ventilation is a real danger.

And the freezer can be considered a small and closed compartment without good air ventilation.

This means that any amount of solid carbon dioxide placed in a freezer can risk bad stuff going down.


How to dispose of dry ice?

The easiest way to get rid of solid carbon dioxide is to let nature follow its natural course.

This means that the best way is to let dry ice go through the sublimation process in an open and well-ventilated environment.

But this method also comes with its conditions, which are the following:

Ensure there’s an open and well-ventilated area. It will allow carbon dioxide emitted by dry ice to be removed without the risk of accumulation.

Solid carbon dioxide should not be left unattended on the public territory for safety and health reasons.

A list of things that should be avoided during the dry ice removal process is as follows:

Avoid throwing solid carbon dioxide in the toilet or garbage disposal system. If you do it anyway, it could damage the pipes.

Dry ice should not be thrown in a garbage can.

How long does dry ice last?

You may think that this is a simple answer. Remember that several factors need to be considered before answering this question.

For example, solid carbon dioxide storage conditions are important to keep in mind.

We need it to be stored in a very well insulated compartment. It’s done to keep a dry amount of ice in its solid form for as long as possible.

A piece of ice stored in a special freezer can last for several days until the sublimation process begins. That is if it’s properly insulated and sealed.

Suppose the refrigerator in which the solid carbon dioxide is stored is not properly insulated and is not specially designed for this. In that case, a piece of dry ice may only last for 16 to 24 hours inside it.

A piece of ice left in a free environment outside a refrigerator can only last for 3-5 hours.

The size of the solid carbon dioxide block is another factor that needs to be considered to answer this question.

Usually, a block of solid carbon dioxide weighing 5-10 pounds will sublimate completely in a maximum of 24 hours.

How cold is dry ice?

As you might expect from its name, it is quite cold.

But exactly how cold it is, you might be wondering.

Well, the exact temperature of dry ice is – 109.3 F.

It’s very cold, as you can see.

Does dry ice melt?

Unlike regular ice, dry ice cannot melt.

Dry ice goes through another “melting” process, called sublimation.

As a result of this sublimation process, solid carbon dioxide will become carbon dioxide. You probably thought it would turn into water!

Can you eat dry ice?

No. I know it may seem tempting to try to eat solid carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, it harms your body if ingested.

After ingesting it, multiple organs in your body may suffer. Some of the areas affected include:
– mouth tissue
– esophagus
– the stomach

Injury to these organs can cause various problems and eventually lead to death.

How long does dry ice last in a cooler?

Suppose the freezer used to store solid carbon dioxide is adequately insulated and specially designed for this purpose. In that case, dry ice may last for several days before the sublimation process.

Suppose it is not properly insulated and cannot cope with this role. Dry ice can only last for 16 to 24 hours inside it.

What is dry ice used for?

This product was discovered in 1900. It failed to enter the commercial market and be used for various activities until 1925. It received the name we use today to describe it: “dry ice.”

Thanks to its diverse and unique characteristics, people have found many activities where these special features could be put to work.

One of the areas in which it helps people is agriculture and food. Due to its abilities, it is used to prevent the degradation of food when transported over long distances.

Solid carbon dioxide creates a cold environment around it. The bacteria in that place cannot grow at extremely low temperatures.

Suppose the process of bacterial evolution is slowed down and stopped. It means that the process of degradation and rot of food no longer occurs.

Thanks to these beneficial processes that arise from the use of solid carbon dioxide, food can reach its destination in optimal conditions. Its basic characteristics being preserved, such as:

Their freshness is preserved throughout the transport.

The food is as crunchy at the destination as it was at the time of departure.

Their unique and tasty aroma is not affected.

The field of food and agriculture is not the only one where dry ice proves to be useful.

The entertainment field can also enjoy the many benefits of solid carbon dioxide.

Sometimes, a visual effect represented by a whitish cloud of smoke may be desired to be created on a stage. It provides a mysterious atmosphere.

But using a flame in an enclosed space can be too dangerous for this. The effect obtained may not be exactly what was intended to be created.

Here comes the dry ice.

Due to its properties can create that desired visual effect of the whitish cloud on a stage without dangers created by an open flame.

Don’t forget about the essential role that solid carbon dioxide plays in controlling animal and beetle infestation.

Animal infestation control experts can use the unique skills of dry ice to force the gophers out of their burrows.

Once the gophers leave their burrows in a hurry, specialists can close the entrances to these holes in the ground. By doing so, they stop the rodents from re-entering them and continuing their infestation process.

In this way, the animal infestation is stopped. No animal is injured due to this process.

Everyone wins because of the solid carbon dioxide.

Also, a unique method used to repel mosquitoes is to use dry ice.

Through its abilities, it can ward off many mosquitoes around humans.

Another process in which solid carbon dioxide comes to the rescue is cleaning delicate electronic parts. It’s due to its special characteristics.

Cleaning them would typically be done with the help of abrasive chemicals. These chemicals could cause damage to very sensitive components.

But solid carbon dioxide can carry out this clean-up mission without the risk of damage.

Words of caution

  • Solid carbon dioxide has many applications in the commercial world.
  • It has a unique skill set.
  • Its temperature is extremely low.
  • It can present many risks if not used with great care.
  • It should not be ingested in any form and is not edible.

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