Fun and Profit with Dry Ice

It seems wasteful to allow approximately 60 pounds of dry ice to sublimate away each week without any useful second life.  Most regrettably, not enough survived the 5 days from the first chemo infusion to Halloween to provide quality seasonal entertainment.  I predict dumping it all into a single Coleman Xtreme cooler and covering to add extra insulation will extend its life and prospects for additional uses.

My 10 year old wanted to experiment with some dry ice last night, so she plopped around a cup of pellets into a glass partially filled with water.  She then poured some liquid dish soap over the top and here is the dramatic result.

After that success, because our four year old wanted to know what dry ice might do to his Halloween candy, he and Earl tucked a Laffy Taffy into the cooler filled with dry ice.  When Earl picked up the typically bendable, sticky candy minutes later and flexed it, the Laffy Taffy shattered into small pieces.

If you have any great ideas for dry ice applications or would like some ice to experiment with on your own, please leave a comment or email me directly.  Food preservation could be a straightforward activity:  simply surround food with dry ice in a ventilated styrofoam cooler and allow to sit until the food’s moisture has sublimated away.  We’ve enjoyed plenty of store prepared freeze dried mango and apple, so maybe something a bit more unusual would be in order — freeze dried Gruyère, anyone?

Last year, my friend Simon reported on some deliciously creamy ice cream that he and his family had eaten in London.  They chose from a menu of ready-made flavored custards and watched as the ice cream chef mixed each serving with liquid nitrogen.  Superfast cooling led to minimal water crystallization, hence the creamy texture.  I wonder whether we could instantly freeze ice cream or sorbet in a similar manner but with dry ice.  As a big step up from the garden variety peddling lemonade, our kids could make a mint with a fresh gelato stand at our front sidewalk.  Actually, forget the sidewalk stand.  How about a made on the spot ice cream food truck!

Update:  Looks like I’m not the first person to think of making ice cream with dry ice.  The only downside is that the ice cream tastes carbonated since dry ice is CO2.  Perhaps it would be more appropriate for making ice cream floats.  Alternatively, to avoid mixing the carbon with the ice cream, we could employ a more traditional technique and put the liquid custard into a small bowl and place into a larger bowl filled with dry ice, slowly stirring until the ice cream has solidified.

I also love the prospect of academic opportunities, like having our 10 year old finish her science fair project a few months ahead of time.  The problem would be how to best integrate dry ice into a fifth grade appropriate experiment.  For example, maybe she could study home-brewed superconductivity.  Any suggestions are welcome!


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