Nitrous Oxide

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There are many oxidizers which can cause hazards.


On 26th July 2007 an explosion ocurred at the Scaled Compostes facility at Mojave Airport in California involving Nitrous Oxide[1] [2].

Fire/Explosion Hazards

Above 1200 F the N2O could explosively decompose at one atmosphere pressure.

"Decomposition to N2 and O2 will occur at a lower temperature (approximately 650dF), if oxides of silver, copper and nickel are present. Some of these oxides may result from soldering or brazing operations"[3].

However, different MSDS sheets say different things. The newer 2005 MSDS from Air Liquide says that explosive decomposition can occur at temperatures below 300 degc when under pressure[4].

Chemical/physical (Imported from Wikipedia)

At room temperature (20°C) the saturated vapour pressure is 58.5 bar, rising up to 72.45 bar at 36.4°C- the critical temperature. The pressure curve is thus unusually sensitive to temperature.[5]

Liquid nitrous oxide acts as a good solvent for many organic compounds; liquid mixtures and may form shock sensitive explosives.[citation needed]{{#if:||}}

As with many strong oxidisers, contamination of parts with fuels have been implicated in rocketry accidents, where small quantities of nitrous / fuel mixtures explode due to 'water hammer' like effects (sometimes called 'dieseling'- heating due to adiabatic compression of gases can reach decomposition temperatures).[6]

There have also been accidents where nitrous oxide decomposition in plumbing has led to the explosion of large tanks.[7]


  2. Three people die in fatal explosion at Mojave Airport
  3. Nitrous Oxide Material Safety Data Sheet
  4. 2005 MSDS from Air Liquid - Nitrous Oxide]
  5. Air Liquide data on Nitrous oxide
  6. vaseline triggered explosion of hybrid rocket
  7. Nitrous Oxide Trailer Rupture July 2, 2001 Report at CGA Seminar “Safety and Reliability of Industrial Gases, Equipment and Facilities”, October 15 -17, 2001, St. Louis, Missouri by Konrad Munke, LindeGas AG