nitrous oxide

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide is a non-toxic, colourless, non-flammable gas with a sweetish taste and odour. It is soluble in water (1.3 liters of gas in one liter of water at 0oC) and even more so in organic solvents such as alcohol and oils.

In the eighteenth century, nitrous oxide was known as 'laughing gas' and used as an intoxicant at parties, supplied in leather bags. The laughter inducing properties were probably due to contaminants.

Nitrous oxide was also known to have an anesthetic effect from the late eighteenth century, but it was only put to medical use after 1844. As an anesthetic it is relatively weak and is used as base anesthetic supplemented by other agents. It is used extensively as an analgesic and also in cryosurgery.

Key Properties

Nitrous oxide is a weak anesthetic, it vigorously accelerates combustion and is soluble in water.


  • Instrument grade nitrous oxide is used a combustion support gas (an oxidant) in atomic absorption spectrophotometer.
  • As a base anesthetic generally supplemented by other agents.
  • Propellant for aerosol products such as whipped cream, cosmetics, shaving cream and some insect sprays.
  • Exceptionally, as an engine boosting fuel for 'dragsters', where special safety precautions are essential.

Nitrous Oxide Mixtures

A Mixture of N20 & Oxygen used in pain relief for Dentistry & during pregnancy deliveries.

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