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Posts Tagged ‘liquid nitrogen’

Back To The Future Of Gases And Welding

Friday, October 28th, 2011

We’re hard at work on the next issue of Welding & Gases Today. For the next issue, we’re looking ahead to the future of the industry. Where is the industry going? What’s ahead?

One of the things I’ve noticed is that companies within the industry seem to be making their play to establish a stronger foothold for the future. Last year we saw supplier Air Products try to get back into the packaged gas side of the business with the attempted takeover of Airgas. In Canada, supplier Air Liquide has acquired multiple businesses on the distribution side, most recently Unitec in the Toronto area on October 4. Will this trend roll over into the U.S.?

Earlier today, Linde CEO Wolfgang Reitzle said in a press conference that the company would like to improve its market position in the U.S. Linde will seek to do this through a combination of organic growth and small to medium-sized purchases. It is yet to be seen what form these purchases will take.

Regardless, there is clearly a pattern of consolidation in the industry. In October 2010, Welding & Gases Today looked at the growing trend in the article “Is Now The Time To Expand?”  nexAir (Memphis, TN) CFO and General Counsel Milton Lovell said the rate of acquisitions was partly due to the economy. “There’s increased competition for those customers who are out there, so large- and medium-sized players are using consolidation to increase their market shares,” he said in the article.

Is today’s announcement from Linde simply a continuation of this trend? Or is it something more? How is the changing landscape impacting your business?

While we’re looking at the future, I want to share this futuristic video. Students at Paris Diderot University in France have created a levitating hoverboard by using liquid nitrogen to create a magnetic superconductor. Enjoy!

Liquid Nitrogen Fog Machine

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

As I alluded to in my last post, there may not be professional football this fall, but there will certainly be college football. And thanks to GAWDA member Norco, there will be plenty of fog for one college football team to create a grand entrance. The distributor upgraded the university’s fog machine, which uses liquid nitrogen to create a thick mist. The fog machine has been dubbed “Fogzilla,” a fitting name. As mentioned in the video below, the goal was to make the players look like they are coming out of nowhere—I’d say they were successful.

While the video on Norco’s YouTube page came from a local news broadcast, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get to see Fogzilla featured on national TV sooner or later, what with Boise State quickly becoming a perennial powerhouse. I’ve had a chance to talk with Norco Marketing Coordinator Chad Mendenhall, who says that the company has made a concerted effort to become more visible on YouTube. One of the unique things about Norco’s YouTube page (http://www.youtube.com/user/NorcoIndustrial) is that videos are categorized into playlists. Because of all the products and applications that distributors carry, this is a great way of organizing videos to direct the end-user experience.

From talking to Chad, it sounds like YouTube offers a lot of opportunities for distributors. Are you a distributor on YouTube? Leave a comment and share your experience, let me know what kind of response you had.

Cryotherapy: The Next Hyperbaric Therapy

Friday, January 21st, 2011

The merits of hyperbaric oxygen chambers and their ability to treat all kinds of ailments are well documented; however, another sort of treatment, the cryogenic chamber, doesn’t get as much publicity. For one thing, subjecting your body to extremely cold temperatures for several minutes is not something most are eager to do, unless you happen to be a member of the Polar Bear Club.

It may also be the fact that most people are not aware of cryotherapy. The practice involves the use of a chamber in which cryogenic gases (often liquid nitrogen) are used to cool the body. Like hyperbaric therapy, cryotherapy is claimed to treat many things, including muscle and joint pain, insomnia, fibromyalgia and psoriasis. It does wonders for preserving the deceased (Walt Disney, Ted Williams, et al); maybe it can help the living!

Dr. Oz
Click the image to watch the video. Dr. Oz’s conclusion picks up in part 2 at around 3:15.

Believe it or not, the therapy is gaining in popularity. On a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show, the show’s namesake put cryotherapy to the test. He had his assistant undergo the therapy for demonstration purposes. According to the TV personality, the therapy is worth trying for some ailments. Much like an ice pack, the cryogenic temperatures reduce inflammation and shrink blood vessels around injury sites.

As a distributor, how can you take advantage of the increasing popularity of cryotherapy? While some use it to treat medical conditions, according to Dr. Oz the experimental therapy is available mainly at spas at this point. Sounds like another niche market to me (Read about niche markets for gases and welding distributors). Either way, it’s great exposure for the gas industry.

Also, check out the article “Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy” from Welding & Gases Today, where Eleet Cryogenics VP Doug Morton explains how to capitalize on the growing market.

Liquid Nitrogen At Consumer Electronics Show

Friday, January 14th, 2011

The Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up last week, and you can bet that the gases and welding industry was represented. While specialty gases are commonly used in the electronics and semi-conductor industry—so therefore gases play a role in the majority of products at CES already—it was the versatility of liquid nitrogen that was on display in Las Vegas.

I was watching a video from CNET recapping the coolest gadgets debuting at the show. The hostess showed off tablets with keyboards, smart phones that dock into a dummy laptop, glasses-free 3D TV and …liquid nitrogen. Richard Blais, a contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef, was there to represent the coolest (quite literally) technology in the food industry, making snacks with liquid nitrogen. In the video, they dip caramel popcorn balls into liquid nitrogen.

If you’ve never seen Top Chef, Blais regularly makes use of liquid nitrogen in his cooking. He’s bringing great attention to the industry, and people are taking note. He now even has his own show on the science channel, and from the looks of it, the liquid nitrogen flows pretty regularly on the show.

To see it in action, check out the video of liquid nitrogen at CES and get a preview of his tv show.

Caltech Halloween Tradition Is A (Cryogenic) Gas

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Photo courtesy of Graeskar

With Halloween in the rear view, we’re now into the month of November, unbelievable as it may be. If you don’t have access to a compressed nitrogen pumpkin cannon, you’ll be left figuring out what to do with those pumpkins before they rot.

Students at California Institute of Technology have figured out how to make use of their pumpkins while using cryogenic gas along the way—the school is known for an annual tradition called the Millikan Pumpkin Drop Experiment. It’s named in honor of a former Caltech professor, and involves freezing pumpkins with liquid nitrogen—and then dropping them from the highest point on campus. Every year, crowds gather to watch the falling pumpkins in hopes of witnessing a phenomenon known as triboluminescence, where the smash creates a visible spark. It’s the same principle behind the sparks created when you smash Life Savers Wint-O-Green mints in the dark.

According to witnesses from previous pumpkin drops, the spark is elusive, but every once in a while it is visible. I don’t know how the tradition was ever conceived—my guess is that it involved college students with some extra pumpkins and a little too much time on their hands. So long as they’re using gases, I’m not going to complain. It just reinforces what I said in my last post—pumpkins and gases go hand in hand! If you’re interested, the precise liquid nitrogen freezing procedures followed by Caltech students can be found here.

Science experiments may not be something you think of targeting, but it is definitely a niche market for gases and welding. What niche markets does your company target? Are there any that you are pursuing? Let me know by leaving a comment or answering a brief member questionnaire.

Casual Friday: Hand vs. Liquid Nitrogen

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Once again, it’s time for a “Casual Friday” video. You could say this is an example of poor safety when it comes to handling gases. In this video, the filmmaker demonstrates a unique property of liquid nitrogen that allows him to insert his hand directly into the Dewar without causing any damage. It is called the Leidenfrost effect, and relies on a barrier of steam that exists momentarily between a liquid and a much higher temperature object.

The effect is cool to watch, but I will never be trying this myself. I like my hands too much for that. Safety definitely outweighs “coolness” in this instance. For every one home scientist who successfully performs the experiment, I imagine there are five who end up in the emergency room.

Would you classify nitrogen here as medical, device or industrial product? Hmm.

Can Welding & Gases Solve the BP Oil Spill?

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Can Welding & Gases Provide a Solution for BP?We’re now about 79 days into the BP oil spill disaster in the gulf coast, and still no comprehensive solution has been developed to deal with the mess. The cleanup has gases and welding written all over it and many people are drawing on the industry for solutions. Ideas are pouring in, but is BP really listening?

An article in the Seattle Times reports that 120,000 ideas have been submitted to BP. Somewhere around 425 ideas in total have gone to testing. Most ideas, says Michael Cortez, a petroleum engineer at BP, are downright impossible or impractical.

The main task BP faces is cleaning up the oil that has spilled. The other large task is securing the leaking pipelines.

GAWDAwiki recently reported that GAWDA member WESCO is testing the use of carbon dioxide to make the oil easier to pick up. According to WESCO Executive Vice President Paul Dutruch, “Our goal is to make the cleanup easier. The easier it is, the faster things will return to normal.”

Welding & Gases Today reader Ray Stone expressed frustration at being stonewalled by BP and the Coast Guard when trying to put in his two cents. His idea is to “spray liquid nitrogen on the front edge of spill.” He added a request to pass the idea along to “people who care about cleanup, not their bottom lines.”

In a Walton Sun editorial, former physics professor Dr. Ernest Zebrowski suggests using liquid helium to temporarily halt the flow of leaking oil long enough to pump in conventional concrete plug. After waiting several weeks with no response, Zebrowski turned to the Sun in hopes of finding an open ear.

The echoing sentiment seems to be: let’s work together to get this thing cleaned up and not worry about making money. BP is understandably wary about signing any agreements, so maybe it should think about taking advantage of the goodwill out there.

Whether it’s welding booms and stopgap structures or using liquid nitrogen or CO2, there just might be an answer out there to tackle the disaster at hand. But for every innovative thinker, the question remains: who is listening?

The Artistic Side of Gases and Welding

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Most of us are probably aware of the role welding plays in modern art. Welded sculptures are a hot ticket item at any museum of modern art and many distributors have probably sold equipment to an aspiring Michelangelo at some point or another. Recently, however, compressed gases have begun to make their name more prevalent in the realm of sculpted art.

Artists have begun taking jellyfish that have died by natural means and preserving them in sculptures using liquid nitrogen. The jellyfish are arranged in the desired position then frozen using the nitrogen. They are then preserved in a resin mold where they harden. The natural phosphor within the jellyfish causes it to glow in the dark. They are typically lit from below with an LED light to add to their radiance. These sculptures have become a trendy art form in Hawaii and are gaining popularity across the rest of the country.

So next time someone comes into your distributorship with a dead jellyfish in a jar, don’t be alarmed, simply find them some compressed nitrogen and help them on their way. Who knows, if you cut them a deal you might even get a free sculpture to spruce up your showroom.