Unlike what some people might probably think, dry ice is markedly different from water ice. Essentially, this compound is a solid, highly pressurized form of the gas carbon dioxide. Unlike water ice, dry ice never melts, but rather sublimates into a gaseous state. For those who might be in the dark, sublimation is a process where solids turn into a gas without passing through a liquid state. Also, unlike frozen water, this compound remains totally dry. In dry ice’s solid condition, it is extremely cold and can attain temperatures as low as -79oC or if you like -109oF. Dry ice was first discovered at the turn of the 20th century and the term has been in circulation since 1925 when it was first trademarked. Dry ice has numerous commercial applications because of its uncommon versatility and it delivers a truckload of advantages to diverse industries. Here are some of the most notable usages of dry ice.

Storage and transportation of various goods

Thanks to its sublimation property, dry ice is in widespread utilization when it comes to the safe transportation of perishable products. This varies from foodstuff, agricultural produce to medical samples, vaccines, and the list goes on and on. Using dry ice allows such products to retain their freshness for longer periods of time. Thereby negating the necessity for using costly refrigerated vehicles. At the same time, due to its extremely low temperatures, dry ice can’t create a conducive environment for bacteria and other microbes to grow, and even slows down the decaying process. In turn, this makes foodstuff stored in this manner remain crisp, flavorful, and fresh as long as possible.

Dry ice blasting

Otherwise referred to as carbon dioxide blasting, dry ice blasting happens to be an efficient and eco-friendly alternative technique for cleaning industrial surfaces. When compared to other industrial cleaning processes such as using chemicals, sandblasting, or high-pressure water jetting, dry ice blasting is non-abrasive and totally harmless to the surfaces of various industrial machinery.

Dry ice blasting
Additionally, it never creates secondary waste because it always sublimates into a gaseous state. When brought into contact with industrial surfaces, dry ice merely evaporates. All these superior qualities do away with the necessity for disassembling equipment when the cleaning process is performed, and this can provide significant cost savings. Carbon dioxide blasting is as well safe for cleaning operations on machinery where the introduction of water may give rise to hazards, particularly if the machinery in question has electrical components.

Airline catering

Dry ice is regularly utilized to keep food chilled or frozen for in-flight catering, especially in the case of long-haul flights. Since there aren’t any mechanical refrigerators on-board airlines, dry ice is used to preserve and keep food temperatures within the required profiles. Also, because of its sublimation property, dry ice never leaves any liquid residues which can compromise the quality of food served in flights.

Airline catering

Freeze drying

Freeze drying is a widespread practice in the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries. Ideally, it is designed to preserve and extend the shelf life of organic products and high-value pharmaceutical products. The freeze-drying process, also known as lyophilization, occurs well beneath water’s freezing point and causes much less damage when compared with other alternative dehydration processes. This definitely means the products frozen through this process always retain their appearance and flavor. They can also be stored for years on end at room temperature without their condition deteriorating or getting spoilt.

Special effects

Dry ice may as well be used to create small, localized fog effects in photography and filmmaking. This is simply achieved by dropping pellets of dry ice into hot water which fast-tracks the sublimation process and creates dense fog. To achieve more spectacular effects, dry ice can be utilized alongside “pea-souper” fog machines. Additionally, dry ice is also frequently used to create breathtaking visual effects at weddings, parties, pubs, and even discos.

Special effects

Dry ice safety

Generally speaking, dry ice should only be utilized safely in places with good air circulation. This is because it may trigger toxic carbon dioxide buildup when released in small, enclosed places including indoors. As carbon dioxide displaces oxygen in the air, it can trigger asphyxiation when someone inhales it for prolonged durations of time. Also, since it sublimates to carbon dioxide, it should never be stored in airtight containers as the gaseous buildup over time will make such vessels burst. On the other hand, materials like glass, ceramics, plastics, or stoneware may crack when brought into contact with dry ice. So, only utilize styrofoam coolers to store or transport it. Lastly, never touch dry ice without protective gloves since direct contact with your skin will trigger frostbites.

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