Liquid Nitrogen and the Leidenfrost Effect

Have you ever seen someone dump his hands in a tub of liquid nitrogen and quickly pull it off without having it frozen in the process? Yes, this is possible, thanks to what is called “the Leidenfrost Effect.”

The Leidenfrost effect is a natural phenomenon in which a liquid, (in this case liquid nitrogen), contacts with a surface that is significantly hotter than the liquid’s boiling point, producing an insulating vapor layer which keeps that liquid from boiling rapidly. This layer of vapor causes water droplets to skitter across the surface of a hot skillet – or protects the hand of a mad scientist from being frozen.

Please note that even though the procedure appears to be relatively safe on video, we do not recommend anyone trying it out.