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Making Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide gas is easily made by heating Ammonium Nitrate and capturing the bubbles produced in a pneumatic trough as shown here.

Chemicals Required:
Ammonium Nitrate

1. Put about 30 grams of Ammonium Nitrate into an Erlenmeyer flask provided with a 1 hole rubber stopper.
Insert a short length of glass tubing into the hole. Then attach a length of rubber or plastic hose and lead it to a pneumatic trough and under a glass bottle as shown in the drawing above.

   A pneumatic trough provides a simple method of collecting gases in bottles and glass jars. 
The principle of the pneumatic trough can be described as follows: If a bottle is filled with water and inverted in a large cake tin or baking pan filled with water so that the mouth of the bottle is below the surface of the water in the baking pan, the water will not run out. Atmospheric pressure will hold the water in. If the end of a tube is placed up into the mouth of the bottle and bubbles of gas are allowed to rise into the bottle, the water will be pushed out and the bottle will fill with gas.

2. Set the Erlenmeyer flask on a wire gauze with ceramic center and place it on a support ring as shown.

3. Heat from below very gently. Bubbles of Nitrous Oxide gas will soon be seen bubbling into the bottle.

4. When the bottle has filled, or when the gas bubbles stop, remove the heat.

   An experiment with Nitrous Oxide can be performed by inserting a glowing splinter of wood or wad or steel wool that has been set aglow by the flame of your burner into the bottle.
   To do this, remove the bottle (now filled with Nitrous Oxide) from the pan, quickly invert it, and thrust in the smoldering wood splint or steel wool.
    Observe that the wood splint or steel wool instantly bursts into flame and burns brilliantly.
Although Nitrous Oxide contains Oxygen and will support combustion, its combination with Nitrogen makes it a gas that cannot support life. Attempting to breathe it would cause suffocation.