The Physics
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Price of Liquid Nitrogen

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Sheahen, Thomas P. Introduction to High-Temperature Superconductivity. New York: Plenum Press, 1994. "Sold for 6 cents per liter in truckload quantities, liquid nitrogen is commonly vented to the atmosphere." $0.06/liter
McChesney, D. Cryogenic Facility. Brookhaven National Laboratory, 29 July 2005. "Price of liquid nitrogen is ~ 6 cents per liter." $0.06/liter
Ross, Ronald G. Jr. Cryocoolers 11. Massachusetts: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001. "We have assumed energy cost to be 0.04$/kW•hr, based upon industrial rates, and the bulk cost of liquid nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen to be 0.113$/liter, 0.176$/liter, and 0.288$/liter respectively." $0.113/liter
Rey, Louis. Aspects théoriques et industriels de la lyophilisation. Paris: Hermann, 1964. "In practice, the cost of liquid nitrogen ranges from a low of around $0.30 per liter to a high in remote areas of $1.50 per liter. In most metropolitan areas the average price is $0.50 per liter." $0.30–$1.50/liter
Kaku, Michio. Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century. New York: First Anchor Books, 1998. "These copper ceramic substances can be cooled by liquid nitrogen, which costs only about 10 cents per quart (making it cheaper than Kool-Aid), while conventional superconductors must be cooled by liquid helium, which costs $4 per quart." $0.106/liter

Liquid nitrogen, also known as LN2, is a odorless, colorless, non-corrosive and nonflammable liquefied gas. It is produced in great quantities by fractional distillation of liquid air. This process consists of condensing the atmospheric gases and separating the liquefied gases. The end result, liquid nitrogen, is still the same nitrogen that makes up about 78 percent of the atmosphere, only that it is much, much colder.

With a boiling point of 77 K, -320 °F or -196 °C, liquid nitrogen can do many interesting things. It is so cold that touching it can cause instant frostbite. In the food industry, it is used to flash freeze and transport foods. For those hot summer days, people also use it to make ice cream. In dermatology, it is used to freeze and get rid of skin growths like warts. Moreover, liquid nitrogen can be used for the cryopreservation of not only blood, reproductive cells and other biological samples but also for the cryogenic preservation of dead humans and animals.

Two factors can influence the price of liquid nitrogen. The price of liquid nitrogen varies according to how far away from the condensing plant you are and the different packaging and handling of the material. The farther you are from the condensing plant, the higher the cost of the liquid nitrogen. In addition, when delivered in Dewar flasks, liquid nitrogen costs about $2 per gallon but when delivered in bulk storage tanks, it costs about $0.50 per gallon. Nonetheless, the atmosphere is about 78 percent nitrogen so liquid nitrogen can be manufactured anywhere and will still be relatively cheap.

Karen Fan -- 2007