Liquid nitrogen is often used for tasks requiring fast and extreme cooling of other substances. Is there a substance that can play a similar role for fast and extreme heating, yet be portable in some canister?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Acetelyne and oxygen? $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 4, 2017 at 16:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Don't try this at home folks :-) $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2017 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ My boss used to make a pot of hot tea every afternoon. One day, while he went to a restroom, I poured a liquid nitrogen in his pot. By the time he was back, the nitrogen was gone, but the pot of tea was frozen solid. It was our first exposure to the concept of "iced tea" back in the Soviet Union. $\endgroup$
    – safesphere
    Aug 4, 2017 at 22:47

1 Answer 1


During my PhD I used molten lead as a way of rapidly heating samples. It has a melting point of about 330ºC and its high thermal conductivity means it very rapidly heats anything dropped into it.

In terms of portability it's probably about as portable as liquid nitrogen since you could carry it about in a (pyrex!) vacuum flash, though I never attempted this feat.

As a general rule heating things is a lot easier than cooling them down, so I'm not sure there is a real parallel for the use of liquid nitrogen.

  • $\begingroup$ "During my PhD I used molten lead....." - Holy BIG Health & Safety Issues, Batman! No problems at your institution with the lead fumes? There is no way we would be able to get away with doing that at the institution where I work. $\endgroup$
    – user93237
    Aug 4, 2017 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ @SamuelWeir: things were a lot more relaxed in the 1980s. But to be fair I only used it briefly and on a small scale because it actually proved useless for my purposes. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2017 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ Were you ever tempted to demonstrate the Leidenfrost effect? $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2017 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelSeifert: good heavens that guy is brave! (or stupid :-) $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2017 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ Apparently he's been performing that stunt for years and once did it on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Also, he's the "Walker" of Halliday, Resnick, and Walker. I'd love to meet the guy some day. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2017 at 17:05

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