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Liquid Nitrogen

Description Goes Here

Try This at Home: Cool Spaghetti

Illustrated Concepts

The properties of matter can change with temperature.

What You Need

  • 1 rubber band
  • Several pieces of cooked spaghetti or linguini
  • Plastic wrap or aluminum foil
  • Freezer

What To Do

  1. Make sure you have an adult with you to supervise this experiment.
  2. Examine the properties of the rubber band. Does this material bend easily? Does it tend to break when it is flexed?
  3. Examine the properties of the cooked pasta. Does this material bend easily? Does it tend to break when it is flexed?
  4. Lay the pasta and rubber band on the plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place it flat in the freezer. Leave there for at least several hours.
  5. Remove the materials from the freezer.
  6. Reexamine the properties of the rubber band. Have they changed now that it is colder? Is it still flexible? Is this a material that would be good to use in a cold environment?
  7. Reexamine the properties of the pasta. Have they changed now that it is colder? Is it still flexible? Is this a material that would be good to use in a cold environment? What other substances can you think of that change when they are cold?
  8. Clean up.

 

What’s Happening

At room temperature, both the rubber band and the pasta have a property called pliability, which allows them to bend without breaking. However, this property can change with temperature. The rubber band stayed flexible after it was put in the freezer, but the pasta became brittle. Even the rubber band will lose its pliability if it becomes very, very cold. Scientists must test materials that will be sent to cold places, like the Arctic or into space, to make sure that they will still be useful at low temperatures. Sometimes, liquid nitrogen, which is negative 320 degrees Fahrenheit, is used to perform these tests.

Fun Fact

Nitrogen makes up 78% of the air here on Earth but only 3% of the air on Mars!