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Liquid Nitrogen and a My Little Pony

You will need:

 
  • Unless you have liquid nitrogen and formal training it's safer if you don't try this experiment
  • Metal bowl, rubber toy (or tennis ball), tongs, hammer, cloth and liquid nitrogen
  • Safety glasses are an absolute must. This material is incredibly cold (-196o C), consider gloves.
  • Do not run this experiment in an enclosed room.

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Instructions

 
  1. Place the rubber toy into metal bowl.
     
  2. Slowly pour liquid nitrogen over the rubber toy and wait for at least 15 seconds for the rubber to cool down.
     
  3. Using tongs, take the rubber toy out of the liquid nitrogen and then break with a hammer. If you are running this with onlookers nearby you should cover the toy with a cloth first before breaking the toy to stop fragments going near the onlookers.

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What is going on?

Liquid nitrogen is -196oC and has the capacity to freeze substances that are normally pliable at room temperature. The extremely cold rubber can be very brittle at these low temperatures due this elastomer entering a glass transition phase and therefore easy to shatter. Once the rubber has warmed up the rubber is again easy to bend and squish.

Be safe, don’t try this at home or your classroom! Get a qualified science communicator to demonstrate it to your class.

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