Scientific snacks on Krentzman Quad

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North­eastern stu­dent affil­i­ates of the Amer­ican Chem­ical Society made ice cream with liquid nitrogen for the campus com­mu­nity on Friday. Photo by Casey Bayer.

For the better part of a decade I worked in chem­istry lab­o­ra­to­ries that had reg­ular access to liquid nitrogen. If I knew then what I know now…I would have eaten a lot more ice cream during those years.

Friday after­noon, the North­eastern stu­dent affil­i­ates of the Amer­ican Chem­ical Society hosted their annual liquid nitrogen ice-​​cream party and it was, well, deli­cious. A half dozen stu­dents don­ning white lab coats (one, like club adviser pro­fessor David Budil, was lucky enough to have his tie-​​dyed) stood on Krentzman Quad around a table that was cov­ered in won­derful things like heavy cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and large dewars over­flowing with steam that can only be han­dled with proper pro­tec­tive gear. There were also bot­tles of choco­late syrup, whipped cream, and sprinkles.

Every year for the last four or so, the NUSAACS stu­dent group has pro­vided the campus com­mu­nity with deli­cious, silky ice cream, hand­made before our very eyes. First, all the ingre­di­ents go into a stain­less steel bowl. Then one stu­dent wearing plastic gog­gles and heavy duty “cryo-​​gloves” grabs the spoon and starts stir­ring while another (just as styl­ishly clad) pours an elu­sive clear liquid over it all. The liquid, a chilly 196 degrees below zero (Cel­sius), freezes the ingre­di­ents in an instant, while simul­ta­ne­ously con­densing water par­ti­cles in the air, said former club-​​secretary Rebecca Lewis. Bil­lowing clouds of steam pour over the table as it’s happening.

Mark Nan­iong, the club’s vice pres­i­dent of campus and regional affairs, explained that the event is meant to show off the cool­ness that is chem­istry to the rest of campus and maybe, just maybe, pique their interest a little. “It’s meant to show people what sci­ence can do. People like to see the steam,” he said, laughing.

This year’s crowd hit a record high, Lewis esti­mated. A hun­dred or so stu­dents stood around the table waiting for their chance to taste the sci­en­tific delight that took less than a minute to make.

I had seconds.