Dry ice is a rather misleading name. After all, it isn’t made out of water. Instead, dry ice is the physical form of carbon dioxide, which is a very different chemical compound to say the least. In further detail, dry ice is made using gases with high concentrations of carbon dioxide. First, those gases are both pressurized and refrigerated until they turn into a liquid. Second, the pressure is reduced so that some of the liquid carbon dioxide will vaporize while the rest will experience a further lowering of temperature, thus causing it to turn into something very snow-like. Third, this snow-like substance is compressed to create the commercial product that is dry ice. It is interesting to note that dry ice undergoes the process of sublimation at 194.7 K, which would be −78.5 °C and −109.2 °F. This means that a substance goes from being a solid to being a gas without passing through the state of being a liquid. Something that can seem very strange for people who are used to thinking in terms of water. Unsurprisingly, this means that humans became aware of the existence of dry ice at a relatively late point in time. Currently, it is believed that Adrien-Jean-Pierre Thilorier was the first individual to observe solid carbon dioxide in 1835. To a lot of people, said individual will be best-known as the defense attorney to Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, an Italian occultist who was imprisoned for the Affair of the Diamond Necklace before being let go because no evidence was found connecting him to the case. This is because the Affair of the Diamond Necklace had a catastrophic effect on the reputation of Queen Marie Antoinette even though she was blameless, meaning that it was one of the most notable incidents that provided fuel to the eventual French Revolution. Regardless, Adrien-Jean-Pierre Thilorier was also interested in both science and mechanics, so much so that he was an inventor in his own right. In that role, he created an apparatus that could be used to create liquid carbon dioxide. His notes mention that when a container of liquid carbon dioxide was opened, most evaporated within a very short period of time while the remainder took on a solid form. Nowadays, we recognize this as dry ice, though it wouldn’t be called thus until an American businessman named Thomas B. Slate started selling it under that product name in the mid 1920s.
What Are the Common Uses for Dry Ice?
Chances are good that interested individuals can guess that dry ice is often used for cooling purposes. After all, it is very cold, so much so that it is colder than standard ice made out of frozen water. Furthermore, dry ice undergoes sublimation, meaning that it leaves behind no unwanted residue. As such, dry ice sees a lot of use for keeping things cool when mechanical cooling is either unavailable or impractical. Besides this, it has other uses as well. For example, dry ice experiences accelerated sublimation when it is placed in water, thus making it a very easy way to create low, dense clouds that resemble fog for whatever purpose. Similarly, dry ice can be very useful for exterminating pests. In some cases, this is because certain pests such as bedbugs and mosquitoes are actually drawn to carbon dioxide, thus making it good bait. In other cases, well, suffice to say that a lot of pests don’t do very well in sealed spaces containing a piece of dry ice because carbon dioxide displaces life-giving oxygen. Of course, dry ice sees so much use because of its easy manufacturing. Otherwise, people would seek out a cheaper solution for those roles.
How Can You Use Dry Ice to Cool a Room?
By this point, some people might be wondering if dry ice can be used to cool a room. After all, it can be used to cool other things, so why can’t it be used to cool a space? If they are indeed wondering this, well, they are right to be curious because dry ice can indeed be used to cool a room. Essentially, the evaporation process takes in heat, meaning that the carbon dioxide will be cooler than room temperature. Dry ice shouldn’t be anyone’s first go-to when it comes to cooling a space. However, it is apparently something that sees use when people’s standard method of cooling has broken down, meaning that they are scrambling for some kind of short-term replacement. One suggested method of use would be putting three small pieces of dry ice in a shallow bowl, with each piece being no bigger than one cubic inch. After which, use a fan to blow over the bowl, which should spread the carbon dioxide around the room for a cooling effect.
Can Dry Ice Be Dangerous?
Speaking of which, dry ice isn’t dangerous when it is stored and handled in the right manner, which of course, means that it can be dangerous when it isn’t stored and handled in the right manner. As mentioned earlier, carbon dioxide displaces oxygen, meaning that high concentrations of carbon dioxide in poorly-ventilated spaces has been known to kill. The substance isn’t as dangerous as carbon monoxide, which has earned a very notorious reputation because it is undetectable by humans on our own by being both odorless and colorless. Still, it is very much possible for high concentrations of carbon dioxide in poorly-ventilated spaces to cause headaches, confusion, disorientation, and death in extreme cases. Due to this, people might want to be extra-careful if they are thinking about using dry ice to cool a room. Yes, a room can be made better-ventilated through various means. However, better ventilation also makes it more difficult to keep the room cool. Under those circumstances, it might be better for interested individuals to look for other solutions, whether that means electric fans, non-electric fans, seeking out other air-conditioned spaces, bearing with the heat until the air-conditioning gets fixed, or some other solution.