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Liquid Nitrogen Safety Guidance


Nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. Gaseous nitrogen makes up about 78% of the Earth’s atmosphere by volume. The following are liquid nitrogen properties:

Boiling Point @ 1 atm -195.8°C , -320.3°F , 77.4 K
Thermal Conductivity (Gas) 25.83 mW/(m·K)
Heat of Vaporization (Liquid 198.38 kJ/kg
Density @ 1 atm (Liquid) 1.782 lbs/L , 807.4 g/L , 808.6 kg/m3

Hazards and Risks of Liquid Nitrogen


If vented into a closed space, liquid nitrogen will vaporize and displace oxygen.  Inhaling air with little or no oxygen content can cause unconsciousness and death without immediate resuscitation.  Rescue attempts often result in the rescuers being overcome as well.

Combustion and Explosion Hazard

  • Liquid nitrogen can condense air from the atmosphere, which can lead to an oxygen rich atmosphere, increasing the risk of fire. An explosion may even occur if the evaporation of the liquid oxygen occurs in the presence of organic material .
  • If liquid nitrogen enters sample vials during storage, the vials when removed from the liquid nitrogen can become rapidly over pressurized with the risk of explosion of the vial.

Cold Burns, Frostbite and Hypothermia

The low temperature of liquid nitrogen (-196° C) means that liquid, cold vapor or gas can produce serious skin burns.  Objects and uninsulated items of equipment can stick to skin and be torn on removal.

There is an increased risk of jets or spurts of liquid nitrogen occurring when items, at much higher temperatures than -196 °C, are placed in liquid nitrogen.  Pockets of nitrogen gas are formed below the surface of the liquid and can rise rapidly, carrying a jet of liquid with them.


Liquid nitrogen can cause many materials to become brittle, or even fracture under stress.  Liquid nitrogen must not be disposed of down the drain, as piping in laboratories may not be able to withstand cryogenic temperatures.

Controlling Risks

The risks associated with the use of liquid nitrogen must be appropriately assessed and controlled to eliminate or reduce the likelihood and severity of injuries and illness to an acceptable level. It is necessary to ensure that liquid nitrogen is appropriately stored, transported and used. It is also important to have an emergency response plan and personnel trained to effectively carry it out.

The risk assessment should consider at least the following four situations;

1. Normal evaporative losses.

2. Filling losses – normally assumed to be about 10% of the vessel’s capacity.

3. Spillage of the vessel’s contents.

4. Spillage of the vessel’s contents immediately after filling – loss is equivalent

to 110% of the vessel’s capacity (10% filling loss + 100% of contents).


Liquid nitrogen should only be stored in containers specifically designed to contain cryogenic fluids. Domestic vacuum flasks should not be used. Dewars and pressurized vessels specifically designed for storage of liquid nitrogen, and samples, are the most commonly used containers for the storage of liquid nitrogen. A dewar is a double walled flask with an open neck which freely vents to atmosphere and is not at pressure. A pressurized vessel is generally of larger capacity (over 50 liters) and does not freely vent but has relief valves and vents.

All liquid nitrogen containers should be stored:

• in a stable manner and on a sturdy surface; and

• in a position that does not restrict access and egress; and

• in a position where they are unlikely to be knocked by persons or other equipment.

The quantity of liquid nitrogen permitted to be stored in an area depends on the volume and ventilation of the area. Areas with good natural ventilation are preferable for storage and decanting tasks because spills, splashes and evaporation are less likely to cause an oxygen deficient atmosphere. Cryogenic fluids should not be stored or used in an office.


Where liquid nitrogen is used in laboratories with limited or no natural ventilation, only limited quantities can be safely used. It follows that in a larger or better ventilated laboratory, a larger quantity of liquid nitrogen can be used safely. If it is necessary to store and use larger quantities of liquid nitrogen however, a low oxygen sensor may be needed.

A low oxygen sensor will alert persons when there is an oxygen deficient atmosphere present. If a low oxygen alarm is activated, the room should be evacuated. The minimum acceptable concentration of oxygen in a room’s atmosphere is 18 percent; however, the goal should be to maintain oxygen concentrations above 19.5%.

The risk of asphyxia must be assessed wherever liquid nitrogen is used or stored taking into account the volume present in relation to the room volume, the likelihood of leakage or spillage, the normal evaporative losses that occur with liquid nitrogen use and any ventilation arrangements.

Vents and relief valves of pressurized liquid nitrogen vessels should discharge to a safe place (not impinge on people, plant or structures) and should be connected to an extraction system that exhausts to a safe external location or recovery system. Where processes generate significant quantities of nitrogen gas, extraction ventilation should be used to remove nitrogen gas from areas where it can affect persons and exhaust it to a safe external location or recovery system.


If containers of liquid nitrogen are to be transported by vehicle, a dry shipper should be used. Under no circumstances should liquid nitrogen be transported in an enclosed vehicle.  There should be no persons enclosed in the same cabin in which liquid nitrogen is being transported. A utility may be used as long as the dewar is restrained.

For moving liquid nitrogen containers within and between buildings, a dewar on wheels or suitable trolley should be used. Goods lifts should be used where available to move containers between floors. If a goods lift is not available, arrangements should be made so that no persons accompany vented dewars in a passenger lift – lock out mechanisms or out of hours shifting of liquid nitrogen may be appropriate under these circumstances.


Only trained personnel should perform liquid nitrogen filling and transferring tasks. Controls should be implemented to minimize both the quantity and likelihood of spills and splashes, as well as exposure to escaping liquid and gases. Controls could include using liquid nitrogen pumps, wearing normal personal protective equipment and ventilation. Valves must be opened slowly to allow for thermal effects on fittings and gas escape due to evaporation.

Control Options

Effective control options must be implemented to ensure the use of liquid nitrogen is safe. Control options in the engineering category are preferable as they reduce the risk at its origin. Administrative controls and the use of personal protective equipment only reduce the risk for the person and rely on their correct implementation and use. It is particularly important to note that personal protective equipment such as gloves and footwear can increase the severity of injuries since larger spills can become trapped, thus causing more severe cold burns. In other instances however, personal protective equipment is effective in preventing cold burns. The fundamental principle for selection of personal protective equipment is that it should prevent significant quantities of liquid nitrogen from touching the skin and eyes. Personal protective equipment should not allow fluids to collect on or within them or if it does, the item must be easy to remove quickly.

It is therefore necessary to carefully consider the tasks performed using liquid nitrogen, possible mechanisms of injuries and illnesses, the quantities persons might be exposed to, then select and implement the most appropriate control measures.

Liquid Nitrogen

What is nitrogen?

Nitrogen is the largest single constituent of the Earth’s atmosphere and is created by fusion processes in stars. It is estimated to be the 7th most abundant chemical element by mass in the universe.

Nitrogen is a pure element, just as oxygen, gold and mercury are all pure elements. Because it boils at -196° Celsius, pure nitrogen occurs as a gas which makes up 78% of the atmosphere by volume of dry air, 75.3% by weight in dry air.

When was nitrogen discovered?

Nitrogen is formally considered to have been discovered by Daniel Rutherford in 1772, who called it noxious air or fixed air. That there was a fraction of air that did not support combustion was well known to the late 18th century chemist. Nitrogen was also studied at about the same time by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Henry Cavendish, and Joseph Priestley, who referred to it as burnt air or phlogisticated air. Nitrogen gas was inert enough that Antoine Lavoisier referred to it as “mephetic air” or azote, from the Greek word άζωτος (azotos) meaning “lifeless”. Animals died in it, and it was the principal component of air in which animals had suffocated and flames had burned to extinction.

How is nitrogen classified?

Type I – gaseous

Type II – liquid

Grade A – 99.95 percent pure nitrogen

Grade B – 99.50 percent pure nitrogen

The amount of nitrogen in the material shall be a minimum of 99.95 percent by volume (v/v) for grade A nitrogen or 99.50 percent v/v for grade B nitrogen. This includes trace amounts of neon, argon and helium. The purity shall be determined by one of the methods described in Compressed Gas Association (CGA) G-10.1, “Commodity Specification for Nitrogen”.

ULTRA High Pure Nitrogen Gas, UHP Nitrogen in gaseous form that are widely used for gas chromatography(GC), industrial purposes by the fractional distillation of liquid air, or by mechanical means using gaseous air (i.e. pressurized reverse osmosis membrane or pressure swing adsorption). Serving as an inert replacement for air where oxidation is undesirable; they are also used in production of electronic parts such as transistors, diodes, and integrated circuits.

How is liquid nitrogen made?

Since air is comprised of 78% nitrogen, liquid nitrogen is made by compressing and cooling air straight from the atmosphere. When air molecules are compressed and cooled, droplets of liquid form. This process is called condensation. Liquid nitrogen boils at -196°C (-321°F) and freezes at -210°C (-346°F).

Is there an alternative to liquid nitrogen?

Liquid helium is colder than liquid nitrogen. However, liquid nitrogen is a lot less expensive than helium. Even though helium is the second most common element in the universe there is only a fixed amount available on earth. Liquid nitrogen is very inexpensive because we can get it from air. Liquid oxygen is also extracted from air, but for each gallon of liquid oxygen you get approximately three gallons of liquid nitrogen. There are many industrial uses of liquid oxygen, like in the manufacturing of steel, so there is usually a surplus of liquid nitrogen.



Boiling Temperature °C

Boiling Temperature °F

















Is there anything else liquid nitrogen can be used for?

Manufacturing and Construction:

  • Nitrogen is used to treat the melt in the manufacture of steel and other metals and as a shield gas in the heat treatment of iron, steel and other metals. Liquid nitrogen is also used to treat metals to increase wear resistance extend the life of products.
  • Liquid nitrogen is used as a method of freezing water pipes in order to work on them in situations where a valve is not available to block water flow to the work area.

Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals and Petroleum Uses:

  •  Refineries, petrochemical plants and marine tankers use nitrogen to purge equipment, tanks and pipelines of dangerous vapors and gases (for example, after completing a pipeline transfer operation or ending a production run) and to maintain an inert and protective atmosphere in tanks storing flammable liquids.
  •  Cold nitrogen gas is used to cool reactors filled with catalyst during maintenance work. The cooling time can be reduced substantially. Cooling reactors (and the materials inside) to low temperature allows better control of side-reactions in complex reactions in the pharmaceutical industry.

Food and Beverages:

  • The intense cold in liquid nitrogen allows very rapid freezing of food items, resulting in minimal cell damage from ice crystals and improved appearance, taste and texture.
  • Food such as olives, nuts, raisins, shrimp, pepperoni and much more can be frozen and then turned in to a powder to be used as flavoring.


  • Liquid nitrogen is used to cool a CPU to achieve overclocking.
  • Liquid nitrogen is used to cool high-temperature superconductors to temperatures sufficient to achieve superconductivity.

Did you know liquid nitrogen has been used in major Hollywood movies?

In this scene from Terminator 2 the bad guy T-1000 gets frozen with liquid nitrogen and shattered to bits.

Here in Demolition Man, Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes are cryo-frozen and brought back to life to do battle in the future.

The 2007 Transformers movie features Megatron being frozen with liquid nitrogen.

Click here for more information on nitrogen.

Custom BioGenic Systems of Romeo, Michigan manufactures a wide range of liquid nitrogen freezers including Isothermal Vapor Phase Liquid Nitrogen Freezers, Standard Liquid Nitrogen Freezers, Controlled Rate Freezers, various dry shippers and dewars for industries that include life sciences, research laboratories, veterinarian, horticulture, pharmaceutical, industrial, scientific and medical, as well as cell and tissue banks.


What comes to mind when you hear the phrase Cold Preservation?

Food is probably near the top of the list.



Yes, yes and yes.

How about wood?

Ship wrecks?




Recovering sunken timber from the deep cold depths of Lake Superior has proven very rewarding. Logs originally cut over 100 years ago that were too water logged to float are now being recovered and are highly valued by architects, furniture makers, builders and musical instrument makers worldwide for their unique characteristics.







The cold deep waters of the Great Lakes (and other bodies of water) have also preserved shipwrecks for over 200 years.





10 Great Lakes Shipwrecks







Photographs, film and even books maintain their integrity and quality in cold storage







Seeds are cold stored and frozen in seed banks worldwide. Mechanical freezers and liquid nitrogen freezers are used to ensure the viability of all plant life.



For long term storage of some biological samples the preferred method is Vapor Phase Liquid Nitrogen Storage. The vapor phase (dry storage) of liquid nitrogen produces a storage environment in the -190°C range without liquid nitrogen contact. Studies have shown that at least two different viruses, Hepatitis B and Vesicular Stomatitis retain infectivity after suspension in liquid nitrogen. Vials or other storage medium can break, contaminating the liquid nitrogen and possibly contaminate the other samples in storage. Strict safety measures should be followed at all times to ensure the safety of the user should this occur. http://www.ukessays.co.uk/essays/biology/cryopreservation-and-cells.php





Custom BioGenic Systems of Romeo, Michigan manufactures a wide range of liquid nitrogen freezers including Isothermal Vapor Phase Liquid Nitrogen Freezers, Controlled Rate Freezers, various dry shippers and dewars for industries that include life sciences, research laboratories, veterinarian, horticulture, pharmaceutical, industrial, scientific and medical, as well as cell and tissue banks.






Click here for more information.


Well, winter has set in and as you are greeted with a sharp cold smack in the face every time you leave the comfort of your warm confines have you ever wondered just how cold the coldest places are?


The 5 coldest cities in America

Cold places in Canada

Cold weather in Europe

Cold places worldwide

The coldest, driest place on earth is Antarctica Ridge A

Fortunately you don’t have to go all the way to Antarctica to get the best cold dry storage.

Custom BioGenic Systems Isothermal Freezers utilize a patented liquid nitrogen jacket to provide temperatures in the -190°C range without liquid nitrogen contact. Our Isothermal Freezers are used worldwide by a wide range of industries including: life sciences, IVF, research laboratories, veterinarian, horticulture, pharmaceutical, industrial, scientific and medical, as well as cell and tissue banks. With worldwide distribution and support, CBS is known for innovative, high quality, cost effective products and expertise in cryogenic storage applications.

What are your capacity requirements?

Choice of 5 sizes


Have a special application? We’ll build a solution.

Do you use freezer rack inventory systems? We have many to choose from.

Do you need a controlled rate freezer? We have one for you.

Do you require a standard liquid nitrogen freezer? We offer a wide range of sizes.

Need something for IVF? We have that too.

Custom Biogenic Systems is a leader in the design and manufacture of laboratory products and supplies. In addition to innovative cryopreservation equipment, we supply upright freezer racks, chest freezer racks, liquid nitrogen freezer racks, canisters / cassettes and frames as well as laboratory boxes and dividers. By understanding the needs of the biotechnology industry, Custom Biogenic Systems provides superior laboratory freezers and complete rack systems that support veterinarian, horticulture, pharmaceutical, industrial, scientific and medical research laboratories, as well as cell and tissue banks.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Who is Custom BioGenic Systems



As we begin 2013 and look forward to  a prosperous year Custom BioGenic Systems is celebrating its silver anniversary. For 25 years Custom BioGenic Systems has been manufacturing state of the art liquid nitrogen freezers, controlled rate freezers, and complete inventory systems for a wide range of markets that include; IVF, research laboratories, veterinarian, horticulture, pharmaceutical, industrial, scientific and medical, as well as cell and tissue banks. With worldwide support, CBS is known for innovative, high quality, cost effective products and expertise in cryogenic storage applications.

Our patented Isothermal Freezer design provides liquid nitrogen temperatures without liquid nitrogen contact. With no liquid nitrogen in the storage area there is no risk of cross contamination and no risk of hazardous liquid nitrogen contact. CBS offers Isothermal Liquid Nitrogen Freezers with capacities ranging from 9,100 to 46,500 2ml vials and conventional liquid nitrogen freezers with capacities of 5,832 to 46,500 2ml vial.

The newest addition to our family of liquid nitrogen freezers are the Isothermal Carousel Freezers. These freezers utilize the proven, patented Isothermal design and unique internal carousel that provides easy access to inventory with a small lid opening providing greater temperature uniformity.

All CBS Liquid Nitrogen Freezers use the proven, reliable model 2301 Controller.

CBS also offers a complete line of inventory systems for all makes and models of freezers including liquid nitrogen and mechanical freezers. Our modern manufacturing facility uses advanced CNC fabrication equipment and robotic welding cells to ensure high quality, fast delivery times of cost effective freezer racks, blood bag canisters and frames. CBS also offers custom fabrications.

Prior to long term liquid nitrogen storage, samples may have to be frozen slowly or at a controlled rate to avoid degradation or cell damage. The model 2101 Controlled Rate Freezer from Custom BioGenic Systems uses a laptop computer using a Windows based operating system to provide six pre-set easy to run freeze programs and unlimited programming capabilities, multi-color graph for sample, chamber and program temperature.

CBS welcomes you to this blog. Please check back to learn about new and exciting developments from Custom BioGenic Systems.