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Divisions > Industrial gases > Application of nitrogen

Applications of nitrogen

Chemical processing
To inert vessels and oxygen-sensitive chemicals, creating an oxygen-deficient environment that reduces safety hazards; to propel liquids through pipelines; and to manufacture ammonia.
Concrete cooling
To keep ready mixed concrete at the temperature needed to meet critical specifications.
To suppress the pour temperature of concrete mixtures, inhibiting the formation of cracks; and to stabilise the ground as in the restoration of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
To prevent oxidation in the manufacture of semiconductors and printed circuits; and to enhance solvent recovery systems by eliminating the use of chlorofluorocarbons for cleanup.
To extend shelf-life in packaged foods by preventing spoilage from oxidation, mould growth, moisture migration and insect infestation; to rapidly freeze and refrigerate perishables during transport.
Glass manufacturing
To cool furnace electrodes and prevent oxidation during manufacturing; and to lower air temperatures for optimum cooling rates.
Metal production and fabrication
To protect metals such as steel, copper and aluminium during annealing, carburising and sintering operations in high temperature furnaces; to cool extrusion dies; and to shrink fit metal parts; utilised as a purge gas with stainless steel tube welding. Also used to support plasma cutting.
Nitrogen's low boiling point and non-toxic properties make it an economical choice for recycling tyres through cryopulverisation. In this process, liquid nitrogen serves as a freezing agent and embrittles shredded tyre scrap so that it can be easily ground into crumb rubber. The resulting product finds use in roofing materials, sealants, oil well linings, recreational surfaces and asphalt paving.

A similar process is used to grind and sort polyvinyl chloride from post-consumer scrap in mixed waste loads, as well as to grind and process dried fruits, delicate herbs and spices.
Petroleum recovery and refining
To improve recovery and maintain pressure in oil and gas reservoirs; to blanket storage tanks and product loading/unloading; to purge pipelines; and to strip volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from waste streams or to cool vent streams. Controlling VOC emissions helps refiners.
Research and health services
To freeze and preserve blood, tissue, semen and other biological specimens; to freeze and destroy diseased tissue in cryosurgery and dermatology; and to pre-cool or insulate Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), conserving the more expensive helium.