Dry Ice- Definition, Uses, Drawbacks, Precautions, Storage

Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide. So, the properties of dry ice are the same as that of normal carbon dioxide. It is colorless, odorless, non-flammable, and slightly acidic in nature.  When the carbon dioxide is cooled to -78°C, it changes its state from gas to solid. This process of the direct conversion of gas to solid is known as a deposition. Similarly, the conversion of solid directly into the gaseous state is known as sublimation. Here we will be discussing the uses, drawbacks, and advantages of dry ice. Also, we will be comparing it with the normal ice and liquid nitrogen.

How to make dry ice?

The liquid carbon dioxide is pumped into the holding tank. Inside the holding tank, the temperature is further reduced to -78°C. During this process, pressure is exerted onto the carbon dioxide.  Based on the way of exerting pressure, the dry ice is shaped into the solid block or pellets form.

Dry Ice Vs Normal Ice

Dry Ice Normal Ice
It is a solid phase of carbon dioxide.

It is a solid phase of water.

The temperature of dry ice is -780C. So, it is extremely cold.

The temperature of normal ice is 00C.  So, the normal ice is not extremely cold.

When heated, the ice directly changes into a gaseous state.

When heated, the ice converts into a liquid state before converting into a gaseous state.

Since the liquid state is not possible, it does not wet the objects.

Since the ice converts into liquid on heating, it does wet the objects.
If consumed it can be dangerous to human beings. The extremely low temperature can cause frostbite, ice burn, etc.

Consumption of normal ice, may not be much of a threat to human beings. The cold temperature can cause pain in the jaw.


  • Dry ice easily converts into vapor at room temperature. So, it should be stored in a properly ventilated area. This allows the leaked gas to escape into the atmosphere.

(Note:- The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should not go beyond 5%)

  • It should not be stored in a normal freeze. Else, the extremely low temperature of the ice can cause the machine to shut down. Also, it will evaporate quickly.

(Note:- 10 pounds of dry ice will last for only a day, even when stored in a freeze).

  • It should not be stored in an airtight container. Else, the ice will begin to vaporize. This will create vapor pressure onto the walls of the container. During this process, if the internal pressure becomes too high, the container may explode.


  • Wear thick/heavy gloves while handling the ice.
  • Do not make direct contact with the skin.  Never eat the dry ice. Else, there can be chances of frostbite.
  • Store it in an insulated cooler with an air-tight cover.

Uses of dry ice

  • It is used in the storage and transportation of certain vaccines. It may also be used in the storage of biological samples in the laboratory.
  • For the preservation of food for a longer period of time.
  • For preventing the melting of the ice, ice cream, etc.
  • Certain industries use it for the purpose of, dry ice blasting.
  • Prevents the attack of insects on the grains enclosed within a container.
  • Used in cinematography, for the creation of the fog.
  • Used in the formation of an ice bomb. Ice bomb can be a risky thing to try. Thus it should not be carried out carelessly.

Disadvantages of dry ice

  • Ice Burn:- The extremely low temperature of the ice can cause ice burn, if not handled properly. There can be chances of frostbite if you hold it for more than 10 seconds with your bare hand. Similarly, you can get frostbite, if you swallow or consume it.
  • Suffocation:- On heating, the dry ice easily converts into a gaseous form of carbon dioxide. This gas then displaces normal air(including oxygen) from the surrounding. So, due to the lack of sufficient oxygen, the people nearby can suffocate.

Liquid Nitrogen vs Dry Ice

Dry Ice Liquid Nitrogen
It is solid ice of carbon dioxide. Liquid nitrogen is liquid in nature.

The temperature is -780C. In other words, it is not as cold as liquid nitrogen.

The temperature of liquid nitrogen is -1960C. In other words, it is extremely cold.

It does not convert into a liquid state on heating. It directly converts into the gaseous state. This process is known as sublimation.

The liquid nitrogen converts into a gaseous state on heating. Sublimation does not take place.

The hazards are similar to liquid nitrogen. But, the severity is quite less in comparison to that of the liquid nitrogen.

Since the temperature is extremely low, the hazards are much more severe than that of the dry ice. So, much more precautions should be taken while handling the liquid nitrogen. It can instantly freeze your fingers and can easily cause suffocations.


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