N2O Compound, more widely known as “laughing gas,” is the chemical formula for nitrous oxide. A nice, somewhat sweet odor and taste accompany the colorless gas at room temperature. For its analgesic and anesthetic properties, N2O is utilized in surgeries and dentistry.

Laughing Gas

Laughing Gas – N2O

It is safe and beneficial to use nitrous oxide (N2O), also known as laughing gas, as a moderate sedation agent during dental treatment.

Nitrous oxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is breathed via a nasal mask in combination with oxygen. Breathe normally, and you’ll begin to feel the effects of laughing gas after a few minutes of inhaling it.

Laughing gas, despite its name, does not always make you laugh. Taking nitrous oxide relaxes your nervous system, allowing you to perform things you previously couldn’t do.

Your arms and legs may feel heavy or tingling and you may feel dizzy or light-headed. At the end of the day, you should feel relaxed and unconcerned the whole time. There’s a good chance you’ll crack a smile or two.

Because nitrous oxide is a safe and effective technique of sedation, dentists prefer to utilize it.

The effects of laughing gas may be swiftly reversed by inhaling pure oxygen via a mask. As an added benefit, since nitrous gas does not put you to sleep, you are awake and attentive throughout your appointment with the dentist.

Name Nitrous Oxide
Formula N2O
Molecular Weight 44 gm
Type Non-polymer

N2O Uses

Laughing gas, often known as nitrous oxide (N2O), is a safe anesthetic commonly used in dentistry, emergency medicine, and delivery because of its well-documented ability to reduce anxiety.

The popularity of N2O in the dance and festival scenes has skyrocketed in the last five years.

Second, only to cannabis, N2O is the most popular recreational drug in the United Kingdom. Nitrous oxide is commonly accessible and inexpensive in most nations since it is a legal substance.

Rocket Motors

Nitrous oxide may be used as a rocket oxidizer. It is less harmful than other oxidizers, and since it is stable at room temperature, it is simpler to store and transport. It also decomposes easily to generate oxygen. Its low storage pressure and high density make it competitive with stored high-pressure gas systems.

Robert Goddard proposed nitrous oxide and gasoline as liquid-fuel rocket propellants in a 1914 patent. Several hybrid rocket designs use nitrous oxide as an oxidizer. SpaceShipOne and others have utilized nitrous oxide with hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene fuel. It is also used in rocketry with different polymers as fuel.

A monopropellant rocket may utilize nitrous oxide. Exothermically, N2O decomposes into nitrogen and oxygen in the presence of a heated catalyst at roughly 1,070°F (577°C). In this case, the catalytic activity quickly becomes secondary to thermal autodecomposition.

In a vacuum thruster, this may deliver a 180 s monopropellant specific impulse. Despite having fewer Isp than hydrazine thrusters, the lower toxicity makes nitrous oxide a viable alternative.

Nitrous oxide is claimed to ignite at 600°C (1,112°F) and 309 psi (21 atmospheres). For example, at 600 pressure, just 6 joules are needed for ignition, but at 130 psi, 2,500 joules are inadequate.

N2O in engine

Internal Combustion Engine

N2O permits the engine to burn more gasoline by delivering more oxygen during combustion. Increased oxygen allows for increased fuel injection, increasing engine power.

The gas is non-flammable at low pressure/temperature, but breaks down at high temperatures, at 570°F (300°C). So it’s commonly blended with more flammable fuel. Nitrous oxide is a powerful oxidant, comparable to hydrogen peroxide but considerably stronger.

The evaporation and expansion of liquid nitrous oxide in the intake manifold reduce the temperature of the intake charge, enabling more air/fuel mixture into the cylinder. Nitrous oxide is sometimes pumped into (or before) the intake manifold, while other systems directly inject before the cylinder (direct port injection).

During WWII, Luftwaffe aircraft employed the GM-1 technology to augment engine power. Originally designed to improve the high-altitude performance of Luftwaffe standard aircraft, technical constraints restricted its deployment to extreme altitudes.

So it was only employed by high-altitude reconnaissance, high-speed bomber, and high-altitude interceptor planes. It was occasionally seen on Luftwaffe aircraft with another engine-boost device, MW 50, which utilized methanol to enhance aviation engines.

Nitrous oxide in a reciprocating engine may provide enough power to harm or kill the engine. The engine’s mechanical structure may be badly damaged or destroyed if the engine’s power is increased dramatically.

To avoid “pre-ignition” or “detonation”, it is critical to maintaining correct operating temperatures and fuel levels. The majority of issues with nitrous oxide are not mechanical. Nitrous oxide boosts cylinder pressures by allowing a denser charge into the cylinder.

The increasing warmth and pressure might melt the piston or valves. Uneven heating may shatter or distort the piston or head, causing pre-ignition.

Automotive nitrous oxide is not the same as medical nitrous oxide. A trace of sulfur dioxide (SO2) prevents drug dependence. It may be removed by several items of washing in a base, reducing the caustic characteristics of sulfuric acid produced by further oxidation of SO2.

Aerosol Propellant

In particular, it is permitted for use as an aerosol spray propellant. It’s most often found in aerosol whipped cream and culinary sprays.

The gas is very soluble in fats. It is dissolved in the fatty cream until the can is opened, when it turns gaseous and foams. Thus, it creates four times the amount of whipped cream that whipping air into cream does.

Using air as a propellant accelerates the rancidification of butterfat, whereas nitrous oxide slows it down. Because carbon dioxide is acidic in water, it would curdle the cream and give it a seltzer-like “sparkling” effect.

However, nitrous gas whipped cream is fragile and will revert to a liquid form in 30 minutes to an hour. So it can’t be used to decorate meals that won’t be served right away.

A blast at an Air Liquide nitrous oxide factory in Florida in late August caused a scarcity of aerosol whipped cream in December 2016.

Due to the shutdown of a large factory, the firm had to shift nitrous oxide supplies to medical customers rather than food manufacturers. Christmas and holiday usage of canned whipped cream was at an all-time high.

Emulsifier lecithin contains nitrous oxide as a propellant, as does cooking spray. Others include food-grade alcohol and propane.


Nitrous Oxide in Medicine

Anesthetic and analgesic use of nitrous oxide date back to 1844. Initially, the gas was delivered by basic inhalers consisting of a rubber fabric breathing bag. Modern hospital analgesia machines offer carefully dosed and breath-actuated nitrous oxide combined with oxygen in a 2:1 ratio.

Because nitrous oxide is a mild general anesthetic, it is usually employed as a carrier gas for stronger general anesthetics like sevoflurane or desflurane.

It has a 105 percent alveolar concentration and a 0.46 blood/gas partition coefficient. However, an anesthetic with nitrous oxide might enhance postoperative nausea and vomiting.

Dentists utilize simpler equipment that solely supplies N2O/O2 for conscious inhalation. The patient is awake during the operation and may reply to queries and directions from the dentist.

Nitrous oxide is often used to reduce pain after childbirth, trauma, surgery, and Acute Coronary Syndrome. Its safe and beneficial usage during labor has been shown. Its use for ACS is uncertain.

Ambulance personnel utilizes Entonox and Nitronox as extremely effective analgesic gases in the UK and Canada.

Given the accessibility and safety of delivering 50% nitrous oxide as an analgesic, non-professional first responders might explore using it in prehospital situations. Its quick reversibility would also allow diagnostics.

Recreational Use

Street sign prohibiting nitrous oxide usage near the Poelestraat in Groningen, by Thomas Rowlandson. In 1799, the British upper class started having “laughing gas parties” where they inhaled nitrous oxide to induce pleasure and/or mild hallucinations.

With the broad availability of gas for medicinal and culinary uses, recreational usage grew rapidly around the globe in the nineteenth century. In 2014, over half a million young people used nitrous oxide at nightclubs, festivals, and parties in the UK. The legality of its usage varies widely across nations, and even within countries.

Because nitrous oxide canisters are widely accessible online, hospital theft is predicted to be exceedingly unlikely. The impact of nitrous oxide canister littering has been widely reported in the London news.


Typically, nitrous gas cartridges (bulb or whippet) are discharged into another item, such as a balloon, or directly into the mouth, and the gas is breathed. Nitrous oxide inhalation creates a brief burst of pleasure, as well as a sensation of floating or exhilaration, which lasts just a few minutes.

N2O Greenhouse Gas

There has been an increase in emissions of greenhouse gas known as laughing gas. Here are some points below about N2O Greenhouse gas:

  • In the world’s quest to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, the source of our food is coming under the limelight.

  • The explanation for this is simple: An estimated 16 to 27 percent of human-caused climate warming emissions can be attributed to agricultural activities.

  • However, carbon dioxide, the well-known culprit in climate change, isn’t responsible for the majority of these emissions. They’re made of nitrous oxide, a different gas (N2O).

  • N2O, more commonly known as laughing gas, receives much less attention than it merits.

  • Yet molecule for molecule, N2O is nearly 300 times as strong as carbon dioxide in heating the atmosphere.

  • Also, like CO2, it has a long lifetime in the atmosphere, lasting an average of 114 years before decomposing. The ozone layer is also being depleted as a result of this practice.

  • All in all, laughing gas has a serious influence on the environment. Nitrous oxide makes for around 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with agriculture accounting for over 75% of N2O emissions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some FAQs related to Nitrous Oxide:

1. Is N2O the same as NO2?

Non-Oxide (Nitrogen Oxides) Nitrous oxide (NO), nitric oxide (NO), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are not included in the word “NOx,” which is used to describe the more reactive nitrogen oxides (N2O). In the atmosphere, the oxidation of NO2 produces a reddish-brown, extremely reactive gas known as NO2.

2. N2O and NO2 are both gases, but what are they used for?

NO, and NO2 are the two gases that make up the word ‘nitrogen oxides’ (NOx). NO is colorless and odorless, whereas NO2 is reddish-brown with a distinct odor. An important contributor to global warming, nitrogen oxide also harms Earth’s protective ozone layer.

3. What role does N2O play in the chemistry of matter?

"Laughing gas" (N2O) provides a euphoric sensation when breathed and is known as such because of this. It smells and tastes nice. In 1772, J. Priestley achieved the first successful synthesis of N2O.

4. What is the difference between N2 and N2o?

Though they both include nitrogen, this is a misunderstanding since they are two distinct gases. Nitrous oxide is a chemical compound made up of two nitrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule, while nitrogen is a molecule formed of two nitrogen atoms.

5. Why is n20 referred to as “laughing gas”?

Inhalation sedation using nitrous oxide (N2O) is used to calm patients and keep them from feeling discomfort. The term “laughing gas” or “happy gas” refers to Nitrous Oxide’s ability to induce certain individuals to experience the “giggles” as they begin experiencing its effects.

6. N2O comes from where?

The gas Nitrous oxide is produced by a variety of processes, including agriculture, land use, industry, the burning of fossil fuels and solid waste, and wastewater treatment.

7. What is the effect of NOx on humans?

At high concentrations, NOx mostly affects respiratory diseases that result in inflammation of the airways. Over time, the lungs become less efficient and are more susceptible to respiratory problems, as well as increased sensitivity to allergens and irritants.

8. Is there a reason dentists do not provide nitrous oxide?

Novocain’s usage by dentists was limited due to a major adverse impact. When Novocain is broken down by the body, a chemical is formed that might cause allergic responses in certain people. These reactions can be severe. Few dentists were still using Novocain in the 1980s when it was first introduced.

9. N2O: Is it a pure material or is it a mixture?

There is no such thing as a combination of nitrous oxide (N2O) gas, which is utilized in dental procedures, and aerosol spray cans. The atoms of nitrogen and oxygen make up this molecule, but they are chemically linked together. The complex and pure material is the result of this.

10. What is the manufacturing process for n2o?

With temperatures ranging from 250°C to 255°C (482°F to 491°F), nitrous oxide is created by thermally decomposing an ammonium nitrate/water solution at concentrations ranging from 80-93%. Nitrous oxide is produced by a multitude of events taking place in an ammonium nitrate reactor.


N2O is the third most significant long-lived GHG and a major stratospheric ozone depleter. Agricultural techniques and N-fertilizer usage have increased N2O emissions. Based on the inversions’ findings, N2O emission may have a nonlinear response at global and regional scales when N intake is substantial.

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