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Daily News Analysis


6th March, 2024 Health


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Picture Courtesy: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/food/what-is-dry-ice-at-the-centre-of-the-gurugram-restaurant-incident-94801

Context: The incident involving the consumption of dry ice at a Gurugram restaurant raises significant concerns about the proper handling and awareness of this substance.

About Dry Ice

  • Dry ice, the solid form of carbon dioxide (CO2), offers a fascinating combination of scientific properties and practical uses.
  • Dry ice is commercially produced by compressing and cooling CO2 gas until it liquefies. This liquid CO2 is then further expanded under reduced pressure, causing it to solidify as dry ice snow. Finally, the dry ice snow is compressed into blocks or pellets for easier handling.

Science Behind Dry Ice

  • Chemical Composition: Dry ice is simply CO2 molecules arranged in a solid crystal lattice structure. At standard atmospheric pressure and temperatures below -78.5°C (-109.3°F), these molecules pack together tightly, forming a solid state.
  • Sublimation: Unlike water, which transitions through a liquid phase when changing between solid and gas, CO2 undergoes sublimation. This unique property means dry ice skips the liquid state altogether, transforming directly into carbon dioxide gas as it absorbs heat from the surroundings. This process creates the characteristic foggy aura around dry ice.
  • Temperature and Density: Dry ice boasts an extremely low temperature of -78.5°C (-109.3°F), making it significantly colder than a standard freezer. Additionally, dry ice is denser than air, about 1.5 times denser, due to the tightly packed CO2 molecules.

Safety Considerations

  • Extreme Cold: The exceptionally low temperature of dry ice poses a significant risk of frostbite or cold burns upon direct contact. Always wear thick, insulated gloves when handling dry ice.
  • Suffocation Hazard: As CO2 gas is heavier than air, it can displace oxygen in poorly ventilated areas, leading to suffocation. Only use dry ice in well-ventilated spaces and never leave it unattended in a closed room or car.
  • Proper Storage and Disposal: Store dry ice in a well-insulated container, like a special cooler, to minimize sublimation.  For disposal, allow it to sublimate completely in a well-ventilated area.  Never put dry ice down the drains or dispose of it with regular trash.

Applications of Dry Ice

  • Refrigeration: Due to its extremely low temperature and sublimation process, dry ice acts as an excellent refrigerant. It can keep items exceptionally cold for extended periods, making it ideal for transporting perishable goods like food or medicine over long distances.
  • Special Effects: The fog produced by sublimating dry ice creates a dramatic visual effect. This is often used in theatrical productions, magic shows, science demonstrations, and even Halloween decorations to create a spooky atmosphere.
  • Food and Beverage Industry: Chefs and bartenders can leverage dry ice for chilling drinks, creating unique presentations like "smoking cocktails" with a cascading fog effect. Additionally, dry ice can be used for flash-freezing food items to preserve texture and flavour.
  • Medical Uses: In certain medical procedures, dry ice is used for cryotherapy, a technique that utilizes extreme cold to freeze tissue samples or warts for removal.

Environmental Impact: While CO2 is a greenhouse gas, the amount used in dry ice production is relatively small. Additionally, the CO2 released during sublimation eventually returns to the atmosphere, making dry ice a somewhat closed-loop system from an environmental perspective.


  • Dry ice offers a unique blend of scientific intrigue and practical applications. By understanding its properties and handling it with proper safety precautions, dry ice can be a valuable tool in various fields, from food science and medicine to entertainment and special effects.


Q. A sealed container initially contains both dry ice and liquid water at atmospheric pressure. The container is left unopened at room temperature. Over time, what will happen to the contents?

A) The dry ice will melt completely, and the water will remain unchanged.

B) The dry ice will sublimate completely, and the water will remain unchanged.

C) The dry ice will partially melt, and the water will partially freeze.

D) The dry ice and water will coexist in a stable equilibrium.

Answer: B


The correct answer is (b) The dry ice will sublimate completely, and the water will remain unchanged.

Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide (CO2), which sublimates or transitions directly from a solid to a gas at temperatures above -78.5°C under atmospheric pressure. This process is known as sublimation. Room temperature is well above this, so the dry ice will sublimate completely.

On the other hand, liquid water at room temperature will remain unchanged as it is already in its stable state under these conditions. It will neither freeze (which would require temperatures below 0°C) nor evaporate completely (which would require temperatures above 100°C under atmospheric pressure). Therefore, the water will remain unchanged.