Drinking liquid nitrogen? removal of stomach

I wanted to check the veracity of this story. It appears on a few British websites. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/oct/08/teenager-stomach-liquid-nitrogen-cocktail
Something seems wrong about it. Doesn’t liquid nitrogen vaporize pretty quickly? What did the bartender do wrong? Why isn’t there more of a fuss being made about this since using liquid nitrogen is so trendy these days?

I’ve heard accounts of scientists accidentally swallowing small amounts of liquid nitrogen, and suffering no ill effects beyond a heck of a lot of burping. I’m hesitant to generalize too much from that, though: Maybe the cases I heard of were just lucky, and maybe the drink here had a larger quantity of liquid nitrogen.

I recall there was a pretty big fuss about it when the story broke (it was brought up during PM Question time, and a few talking heads called for tighter regulations).

Small amounts of liquid nitrogen can be swallowed without immediate damage to your tongue, throat, etc. because the boiling liquid produces a cushion of gaseous nitrogen between the liquid and your skin. The gaseous nitrogen, while still cold, doesn’t have enough heat capacity to cause immediate damage. This is called the “Leidenfrost effect”.


However, when the liquid arrives in your stomach, it continues to boil and can cause your stomach to rupture like a balloon if the gas cannot escape fast enough, or if the pressure distorts the tissues enough that the stomach becomes sealed off.

With the liquid nitrogen drinks, I think you are supposed to wait until they stop boiling. This was probably some combination of the bartender using too much liquid, and the girl being too eager to chug the drink.

We had a thread about this a month and a half ago:


I recall scientists “gargling” liquid nitrogen when I was in grad school. I was always concerned not only about their swallowing it, but also about temperature shock cracking the enamel on their teeth.
The Leidenfrost effect will protect you until the vapor barrier holdiing the liquid away from your flesh breaks down, at which point you will get catastrophic cooling and tissue damage. This normally doesn’t happen because the small amount of liquid nitrogen evaporates rapidlt, but I’ve seen it happen when someone held LN too long in the holow of their and. With a stomach, the nitrogen has no place to go, and it’s almost a certainty.

They’ve been making those nitrogen drinks for over fifteen years. What happened to that girl has still not been fully explained. Did the bartender make it wrong? No one seems to know why she got hurt.

cooling alcohol with anything other than water ice can be dangerous. you can take the alcohol below the freezing point of water; depending on how cold/how much/how long then you can freeze some of your tissue.


I’m thinking it wasn’t directly from the LN, per se, but rather the drink was still far too cold for consumption. 80 proof vodka freezes at temperatures around -17°F (-27°C).

If the drink was that cold… That’s bad news for your tummy wummy.

Is it? I don’t think it’ll stay that cold, in fact it has less cooling capacity than ice, since the heat of melting of ice is much greater than its heat capacity.

You can cool below 0 C with water ice if you have enough really cold ice, especially if the solution is already pretty cold and made up of mostly ethanol.

I should add that this is difficult, as most of ice’s cooling power comes from the enthalpy of fusion, not from it’s heat capacity, which is half that of water.