Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide, that gas that we exhale when we breathe. It is called dry ice because it changes from a solid to a gas (sublimation) under normal atmospheric conditions without going through a liquid state. Whether you're preparing a science project or just want to create stunning visuals with a little smoke, follow the steps below to learn how to handle dry ice with care.
Part 1 of 3: Buying and Shipping Dry Ice
Step 1. You can buy dry ice at your local supermarket
Stores that sell dry ice include Safeway, Walmart, and Costco.
- Try to buy the ice shortly before you need to use it. Because it constantly changes from a solid to a gas, it doesn't last long. Every 24 hours, 2 to 5 kg (5 to 10 lb) of dry ice changes from a solid to a gas.
- Although most people can buy dry ice, some stores require you to be 18 years of age to purchase it.
Step 2. Buy blocks of dry ice
Both school projects and creating visual effects need blocks of dry ice.
- Dry ice also comes in the form of tablets, but these are used more to clean surfaces or to transport medical supplies.
- The price of dry ice ranges from $ 1.00 to $ 3.00 per pound. Although prices vary depending on the quantity and location of the store, it is generally cheap.
Step 3. Place the dry ice in a thermally insulated container, such as a plastic cooler
Because dry ice is cooler than most refrigerators (-109.3 to -78.5 ° C), regular refrigerators will not keep it frozen.
- The thicker the insulating coating on the cooler, the slower the dry ice will sublimate.
- Try to open and close the container as little as possible to delay the sublimation process. You can also fill the empty spaces in the cooler with rolled paper to insulate it even better.
- Storing dry ice in your refrigerator will cause the thermostat in your refrigerator to turn off. Because dry ice is extremely cold, the freezer will automatically turn off the thermostat so food doesn't freeze too much. For this reason, if your refrigerator breaks down and you need to keep your food frozen, you can put dry ice inside as an alternative to the thermostat.
Step 4. Put the cooler in your car and roll down the windows
Remember, dry ice is carbon dioxide and it is harmful if you breathe it in in large amounts.
Fresh air circulation is very important if you need to transport dry ice for more than 15 minutes. If a person is in a poorly ventilated place and brings dry ice with them, they can suffer from headaches, breathing problems and even death if this compound is inhaled for long periods
Part 2 of 3: Handle Dry Ice With Care
Step 1. Wear leather gloves and long sleeves when opening a container of dry ice or pouring this compound into other containers
Although brief contact with this compound does not cause harm, prolonged contact can cause burns due to freezing of your skin cells.
- You can also use a towel or mitt, but they don't work as well as leather gloves. However, handle dry ice like a hot skillet and avoid skin contact.
- Treat dry ice burns like a normal burn. If your skin is red, it will heal over time. If you develop blisters or your skin flakes, treat the wound with an antibiotic ointment and bandage it. See your doctor immediately if the burns are severe.
Step 2. Store unused dry ice in a well-ventilated room
Storing large amounts of dry ice in places with poor ventilation can cause the environment to lose oxygen.
- A shed is well ventilated and there will be no danger of suffocation from both people and animals. If you are having trouble finding a good place to store dry ice, ask your chemistry teacher if there is a safe place in the lab where you can store your dry ice.
- Make sure to keep dry ice out of the reach of children and pets.
Step 3. Open all doors and windows in the room where there is a dry ice spill
The dry ice will continue to sublimate, but it needs to mix with the air to make the process easier.
Carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen and tends to settle in the places closest to the spill. Avoid placing your face near holes or low places where the spill occurred, as these are the ones with the highest concentration of carbon dioxide
Step 4. To dispose of dry ice, leave it in a well-ventilated area at room temperature
If you have dry ice left over, remember that it is in a constant state of sublimation and you simply need to leave it in a place without touching it so that it finishes evaporating.
- Your backyard porch is perfect for dumping dry ice. Just make sure it is out of reach of other people for at least 24 hours.
- You can also use a fume hood to dispose of dry ice. It is a ventilation device where harmful chemicals can be stored or used. Your school chemistry lab may have one of these, where you can leave any leftover dry ice. Make sure to ask your teacher for permission first.
Part 3 of 3: What to Avoid Doing
Step 1. Do not store dry ice in a completely airtight container
Dry ice sublimation will cause the container to expand due to increased pressure and even explode.
- Dry ice can cause a violent explosion if you store too many in a small space. Some people have been accused of purposely storing dry ice until it causes an explosion, creating a dry ice “bomb”.
- Do not store dry ice in metal or glass containers, as the explosion could create flying splinters and cause more serious cuts or injuries.
Step 2. Avoid storing dry ice in cellars, basements, cars, or other places with poor ventilation
Carbon dioxide will begin to build up and replace oxygen in the air, causing suffocation if inhaled for a long time.
Ventilate places where you have stored dry ice before entering them
Step 3. Try not to leave dry ice unattended
Even if no one is around, the ice may spill or other accidents may occur if you leave it without close supervision.
Do not leave dry ice on ceramic surfaces or countertops as extreme cold could break them
Step 4. Don't dump dry ice down sewers, sinks, toilets, or garbage disposal
The safest thing is that the water in the pipes will freeze and break them.