Homemade liquid nitrogen generator

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Did you ever think you could make liquid nitrogen in your own garage? This is an industrial process so how can an individual do this? Still doubt me? Intrigued? Read on.

As a lover of science I tried to think of a challenging project that was out of the ordinary. After going through the internet web and Youtube I realized that no one had made liquid nitrogen in his home. Yes, I did see some videos where some would use a Stirling Cooler from a cryorefrigerator and use this to condense nitrogen on the exterior of the cold-head. While one is making liquified gas, this is done using a prefabricated machine. I wanted to make the machine that liquefies the gas. Furthermore, a cryocooler has a very low production rate. You will only get about 500 - 1000ml per day. On the following pages I will walk you through the basics of how to build your own liquid nitrogen generator. Using easily obtained materials you can liquefy nitrogen or air. The unit cools to -320F in under 50 minutes. The production rate is about 350 cc/hr.

A full tutorial and plans are at This page goes over theory, thermodynamics and more detail on where to get components and how to build this. This Instructable serves as a general introduction to how this baby is put together.

I have just added a new web tutorial on how to make your own N2 gas from the air. I will add this as a new Instructable in the next few days. You can get a link for it at the end of this one.

The video above gives you a quick 3 minute overview of the project. At the end of this tutorial I briefly mention the PSA I made for making the pure N2 from the air for the generator. If you're ready for 320 degrees below zero we can begin...

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This is awesome, and I really want to do it, but it seems super-expensive.

Is there to do this more cheaply (even if it means that it'll take longer to make less liquid)?

Please let us know about cost-lowering trade-offs. :)


imsmooth (author) 22 days ago
I asked the supplier what amount is needed for a flow of 1 scfm

I think these are derived empirically
Ugifer2 months ago

This is a fabulous instrucable, but I do have one concern: do you not find that you condense out liquid oxygen, at least to start?

Oxygen liquifies at a higher temperature than nitrogen and one of the classic mistakes people used to make with the liquid nitrogen traps in the lab was leaving the pump running and drawing loads of air through. You would end up with a big trap full of beautiful blue liquid oxygen and a terrible danger of sudden explosion or raging fire!

In spite of that hazard, you have achieved something that i wouldn't have thought possible at home, so great work there. I would like to say that I will be doing this but I have a feeling my wife knows that it's then only two easy steps from here to liquid-oxygen-barbeque-lighting and would instantly ban me from even trying!


imsmooth (author)  Ugifer2 months ago
That's a good pick up there. I may have briefly mentioned it but I'm using a pressure swing adsorber to take regular air and make pure nitrogen gas. It Is this pure nitrogen gas from the PSA that I liquefy.

do you have any details on the calculation of qty CMS used for the PSA system.

is the calculation based on the fact that only 21% of air is Oxygen??

Ugifer imsmooth2 months ago

If you mentioned it then I didn't pick up on it. Does that mean that the molecular sieves were used as a PSA as well as taking out the CO2 & water, or are they separate units? I suppose the PSA must be on the high-pressure side of the compressor so I guess it's a separate unit but I don't have too much background in pressurised gases.

Once again: great method & amazing instructable.


imsmooth (author)  Ugifer2 months ago
I'll add a separate step explaining about the PSA

The PSA is a completely different device which I may list is another tutorial in the future. This is only to remove the oxygen from the air. I actually have a separate scrubber removing the water and carbon dioxide going into the PSA.

The scrubber described in the tutorial here is just for removing water and carbon dioxide going into the compressor for the ln2 generator.

The PSA has a working pressure of about 100-120 psi
Ωmega1 month ago

Great project, but is it possible to liquify other gasses (such as noble gasses), or is this "reaction" only applicable towards Nitrogen?

imsmooth (author)  Î©mega1 month ago
as long as the inversion temperature is above ambient, you can do this for other gases. You would need to check the value.
ViperSRT3g2 months ago

I'd love to make this, but I'm unsure of how I could put this liquid N2 to work.

liquid nitrogen is used in many shop/industrial applications. I need it for cryo-treating certain alloys, shrinking parts for interference fit, purging oxygen from containers. Freezing corpses...

Haha, aside from the fact that this would be a great learning project, I can't justify creating a nitrogen generator JUST to make ice cream XD

RayJN ViperSRT3g2 months ago

Very, Very hard ice cream

I've looked into it, checking professional cooking establishments around the planet and everyone who has a fair bit of experience at making this type all say the same thing in that liquid nitrogen ice cream is smoother and creamier than the normal kind. You can even take the same mixture used to make your ice cream, split it into two halves and using liquid nitrogen with the one half and a traditional ice & rock salt hand cranked ice cream maker with the other half. Making both batches on the same day, in the same weather conditions, choosing whatever conditions are the best for the traditional method. And I will bet you every time the traditional stuff is just not going to freeze fast enough to prevent ice crystals from forming. - and the liquid nitrogen ice cream is made in less than 10 minutes....

Maybe not, but to me ice cream is a very serious issue. I don't like any ice cream that blends air into the mix, uses cheap low-fat milk or maybe even adds a bit of water to extend the savings. And then there's that 'beaver butt' vanilla replacement I don't much care for. And I really like the idea of freezing alcohol into the mix, which is not so easy when you make ice cream the old fashioned way

MOST vanillin comes from the paper pulp processing industry as a byproduct of using wood in the process. There's more paper made than there are beavers available for industry.

Sure, but how do you confirm the actual ingredient used when the label only says "Natural Flavor"?

Sort of like winning the lottery, or getting hit by lightning. Millions of tons of wood pulp are processed and vanillin usually comes from that. Beaver hunting tags are quite limited and a thousand tons of beaver butt may not exist in the entire planet. Confirmation may be bit and miss, but it's a really BIG miss. (Just my thoughts on statistics, not trying to argue with you. I don't like the idea of eating it either so I use real vanilla beans and avoid synthetics as much as possible.)

"Beaver-butt"! Ha! It's actually the fake raspberry flavor that comes from beaver's butts. For those that think we're making this up, just google "castoreum".

i agree with u:)

rusticator2 months ago

A cheaper high-pressure compressor is It is available with 4500 and 3000 max psi for $650 plus an oil-less utility compressor for $50-150 as a front-end. Designed for airguns and paintball. Works well.

imsmooth (author)  rusticator2 months ago
Flow rate is too low
I had looked into yhese
Shkinball2 months ago

What do you do with all this Liquid nitrogen though?

scitch2 months ago

Wow! A SCUBA compressor is $1,500-$3,500 on craigslist!

imsmooth (author)  scitch2 months ago
If you get one make sure it is oil free and has a sufficient flow rate.
espdp2 imsmooth2 months ago

As some folks can get several fridge compressors, is there any good reason that you couldn't run two or more in parallel to produce a better flow rate?

There's a risk they produce significantly different pressures. That can
have unpleasant consequences. If you use several of the same make and
type, though, that can be an interesting idea. They also produce a lower
pressure, tho.

lperkins scitch2 months ago

Should be possible to use lower pressure, but you'll need more insulation to compensate for the slower heat extraction.

flashcactus2 months ago

Great 'ible. I'd build one if I didn't live two blocks away from a
company that makes all sorts of gases, both liquefied and not, and sells
LN₂ at ~ $1.60 a liter. Maybe I'll build one anyway just 'cause it's
cool (and I can liquefy other gases with it, too).

What's the lowest temperature that this setup could practically produce?

You've also mentioned that the steel tubing for the regenerative heat exchanger came in 20-foot sections. Did you weld them together or what?

By the way, the compressor page on your site apparently has a typo:

>a temperature, T, of 32C (273K)

You probably meant Fahrenheit, as 273K ≈ -0.15°C.

imsmooth (author)  flashcactus2 months ago
The temperature should be able to go as low as the boiling point of the gas in the system. Of course, if the inversion temperature is too low you will not be able to cool the gas with throttling. You would need to implement a different method like a turbo expander.

BTW, thanks for pointing out the typo. It should have read 0C like you said.

As far as the connections I think I mention somewhere that I use high pressure tube fittings. I got these from Swagelok.
wierd idiot2 months ago

simple amazing, would never of thought it was possible to do at home. Good instructable man.

Pazzerz2 months ago

I can see a use: Freeze drying foods! The conventional freezer isn't usually cold enough. A vacuum is easy enough to obtain, its the -40F that you need to make the process work well.

Pazzerz2 months ago

I operated an O2 generator while working in Norfolk, VA. The CO2 was allowed to freeze in the first stage, then the intake was reversed so that the cold, frozen section became an exhaust. It was on a timer, so that the colder it got, the quicker it switched out, until it was stabilized at about 3 minutes per cycle. This was the first stage. It used compressors with cylinder diameters of about 24 inches. We maintained a temp of about -302F for LOX. I hear that the LOX an LIN could be separated by using an extra stage, after sending the LOX to a storage tank and then condensing the LIN. Acetylene tests were done to insure that the O2 was pure. Acetylene is actually naturally present in the air and not a good thing to have in great quantities in a batch of LOX.

Nice 'ible.

hatrack492 months ago

nitrogen condenses BEFORE oxygen separates from the atmosphere

ico1702 months ago

how do you remove the oxygen from the hydrogen?

Ugifer2 months ago

Great! This is important, so that anyone copying your method doesn't accidentally start a liquid oxygen fire!

It looks like a great project in itself. Looking forward to seeing the new 'ible.


mathewbooth2 months ago

Have you considered adding a heated copper filing component to the scrubber? You could probably get very nearly 100% nitrogen (with a bit of argon and negligable amounts of the heavier noble gases).

oilitright2 months ago

I really enjoyed the video and always appreciate Instructables that show real creative powers.

BUT when it comes to harassing animals I draw the line. I hope your cat Jasper repays you with typical feline revenge like climbing the drapes or pissing in your shoes:) It will serve you right!

P.S. For me this is nice.

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