What is Nitrous Oxide? Learn the Definition of Nitrous Oxide in Our Latest Blog Post.

Most of us are highly aware of the dangers common gases can cause; however, nitrous oxide is one with less coverage and familiarity. This article will explore what nitrous oxide is, what it does, its uses, nitrous oxide side effects, and the importance of nitrous oxide measurement. At Edinburgh Sensors we can help keep you safe from nitrous oxide with our nitrous oxide detector.

Nitrous Oxide definition. Enquire online to find out how we can assist with your nitrous oxide measurement.

What Is Nitrous Oxide?

Nitrous oxide (N2O), familiarly known as laughing gas, is an oxide of nitrogen. At room temperature nitrous oxide is a colourless, odourless, non-flammable gas, and becomes a powerful oxidiser at high temperatures.1

What is Nitrous Oxide? Discover the definition of Nitrous Oxide in our article.

Often known as ‘laughing gas’ or ‘sweet air’, nitrous oxide plays a significant role in medicine due to its anaesthetic and pain-relieving properties. Nitrous oxide mixed with oxygen may be inhaled by a patient to reduce the pain associated with oral surgery, trauma, and childbirth.  Though nitrous oxide works quickly, the pain-relieving effects can soon wear off.3

Nitrous Oxide works as an anaesthetic in the medical industry to reduce pain.

What Does Nitrous Oxide Do?

Nitrous Oxide Uses

As mentioned, nitrous oxide uses are most commonly within the medical industry and has been listen by the World Health Organisation as an essential medicine.4 It does, however, have other uses in industries such as:

  • Motor vehicle
  • Aeronautics
  • Food and Beverage

What Does Nitrous Oxide Do? Nitrous Oxide Uses include anaesthetic to reduce pain in medical procedures.

Motor Vehicles

Nitrous oxide is used within vehicle racing as it allows the engine to generate more power and give a faster drive. By supplying extra oxygen during combustion, nitrous oxide allows the engine to burn more fuel, producing more engine power.5


Similar to motor racing, nitrous oxide is used in rocket propellants to increase the power of the engines. Nitrous oxide has advantages over using other oxidisers as it is much less harmful, easier to store and comparatively safe to carry on flight.6

Food and Beverage

Nitrous oxide is also approved for use as a food additive, particularly used in aerosol sprays as a propellant. Its most common use in the food industry is in whipped cream canisters and aerosol cooking sprays. Nitrous oxide works well with oil and whipped cream as the gas is extremely soluble in fatty compounds. For whipped cream, nitrous oxide is dissolved into the cream, when it then leaves the can it becomes gaseous and therefore creating the foam. Other gases such as CO2 cannot be used as it is acidic in water and would curdle the cream.7

Nitrous Oxide Uses include motor propellant, anaesthetic, and aerosol propellant.

Nitrous Oxide Side Effects and Hazards

Now we understand nitrous oxide uses, it is important to understand the side effects for nitrous oxide and hazards and the reasons for monitoring and measuring nitrous oxide.

Nitrous Oxide Side Effects. Find out more about what nitrous oxide does, in this blog.

Nitrous oxide can be dangerous to human health if inhaled in excess; however, it is also a gas that is increasingly causing concerns for the health of the planet. Nitrous oxide side effects can result in health issues. Health impacts from exposure to excess amount of nitrous oxide include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness
  • Nerve damage8

With nitrous oxide playing a large role in medicine, it is often used and stored in large abundance in hospitals, dental surgeries, etc. This poses a potential risk of leaks in such areas. Frequent monitoring and nitrous oxide measurement is necessary in workplaces where nitrous oxide is frequently used and stored to ensure a safe working environment.

Nitrous oxide is highly polluting and has been found to be 300 x more polluting to the planet than carbon dioxide, making it a major greenhouse gas and a key driver of climate change.9 Industries must control their nitrous oxide emissions. Any nitrous oxide leaks can have highly detrimental effects on our atmosphere.

As we unfold the dangers of nitrous oxide, the need for a nitrous oxide detector and frequent measurement becomes clear.

Nitrous Oxide Measurement With Edinburgh Sensors

Protect your workplace from nitrous oxide leaks using Edinburgh Sensors Gascard NG. Edinburgh Sensors Gascard NG provides high quality, accurate and reliable nitrous oxide measurement.

Keep the planet and its inhabitants safe with a nitrous oxide detector. For more information, or to place an order get in touch, and a member of our sales team will be delighted to help.

Nitrous Oxide Measurement With Edinburgh Sensors. Enquire online for more information on what nitrous oxide does and its uses..

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  1. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/nitrous-oxide
  2. https://www.who.int/groups/expert-committee-on-selection-and-use-of-essential-medicines/essential-medicines-lists
  3. http://www.contactmagazine.com/Issue54/EngineBasics.html
  4. https://docslib.org/doc/9057216/is-nitrous-oxide-safe
  5. https://smartwhip.com/blog/9-food-grade-nitrous-oxide-uses-in-food/#:~:text=It%20is%20also%20used%20as,and%20CO2%20from%20the%20dough.
  6. Nitrous Oxide Side Effects: Long Term, Short Term, Overdose, and More (healthline.com)
  7. What Is Nitrous Oxide and Why Is It a Climate Threat? – Inside Climate News