Where can I get liquid nitrogen in the Bay?
October 13, 2010 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Where can I get a small amount of liquid nitrogen in Berkeley/The East Bay/SF?

I want to use it to make ice cream, so I guess it should be food grade? I can't get any real results from google.
posted by senseigmg to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Apologies if you've found this already, but these are basic instructions on how to find it. It seems one of the hurdles may be obtaining a dewar to store it in.
posted by ORthey at 1:46 PM on October 13, 2010

You can also try universities, in particular the chemistry labs.

Of course, you'll want to make sure that the container you keep it in isn't sealed, or the pressure buildup will create some results you would rather not have.
posted by adipocere at 1:56 PM on October 13, 2010

We get ours at work (San Francisco) from either Praxair or Airgas. Mind you, we order it in dewars that are 5 feet tall at 3 feet in diameter. And we order 6 of those at a time.
posted by mollymayhem at 1:58 PM on October 13, 2010

You said that you were looking for "a small amount." I made liquid nitrogen ice cream once before, and I remember that it took a lot more liquid nitrogen than we had planned (there was no leftover for playing around with). Don't get too little, or else you might just wind up with chilled cream.

It's been about ten years since my experimenting, so unfortunately I can't offer a specific quantity, only vague cautionary advice.
posted by mintymike at 2:12 PM on October 13, 2010

You can also try universities, in particular the chemistry labs.

Also nuclear/health physics (cooling detectors) and biology (storing cells and assorted icky stuff).

Can't comment on the food grade angle though - I don't think LN2 is subject to much contamination, due to the way it is produced and distributed, but I could be wrong.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:34 PM on October 13, 2010

Animal breeding outfits (American Breeding Service, etc.)
posted by goalyeehah at 2:43 PM on October 13, 2010

A Dewar is a vacuum bottle, like a thermos bottle. I have transported LN2 in a stainless steel thermos bottle. There are three things you must be certain to do right:

1. DO NOT TIGHTEN THE LID of the thermos. LN2 increases enormously in volume when it changes from liquid to gas. Some of the liquid you put in will make that change. If there's no place for that increased volume to escape, there will be an explosion.

2. Make sure the thermos stays upright. Because the lid is not on tight, LN2 will spill out if the thermos tips over.

3. Use a stainless steel thermos, not a glass-lined or plastic one.

This is actually a good way to test thermos bottles. If frost forms on the outside of the bottle, the vacuum is gone, and the bottle won't keep stuff hot or cold well.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:01 PM on October 13, 2010

University chemistry labs do not, alas, hand out liquid nitrogen to anyone who asks for it.
posted by fshgrl at 3:58 PM on October 13, 2010

My google-fu says Airgas or Praxair are your best bets. Call your local one of those two. According to random forum knowledge you can get as little as 2L of LN2 from Airgas. They may ask why you are purchasing it (legal reasons) and make you sign a waiver (more legal).

Be careful, liquid nitrogen is dangerous and stuff, and you don't want to lose your fingers!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:08 PM on October 13, 2010

Best answer: 1) Get a laboratory-grade Dewar that's LN2 capable.

2) Call up your local welding-supply place, e.g. Airgas, and ask them when they're open. I'd point you to their website, but it's well and truly borked right now. They're all over though.

I'd be willing to bet good money that making ice cream with LN2 is way, way more expensive than just buying a half-gallon from your local grocery store, but hey, whatever floats your boat. Sounds like fun.
posted by valkyryn at 4:13 PM on October 13, 2010

University chemistry labs do not, alas, hand out liquid nitrogen to anyone who asks for it.

I've been surprised on that count before, but, generally, yes, you have to know someone in the lab. For something as cheap, safe, and plentiful as liquid nitrogen, I doubt anyone would mind filling up a dewar for his friend. It's something like fifty cents a liter.
posted by d. z. wang at 6:43 PM on October 13, 2010

Best answer: Praxair sells LN2, and they will rent you a dewar as well. Not all of their locations will carry it though.
posted by borkencode at 7:36 PM on October 13, 2010

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