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Ever wonder what happens when a nitrous oxide bottle explodes?

A heated Nitrous Oxide bottle goes awry
A heated Nitrous Oxide bottle goes awry

A nitrous oxide bottle recently exploded in a team trailer of one of the drag racing teams at the Imports vs Domestics World Cup finals in Maryland last weekend. Fortunately no one was hurt and no one was near the bottle when it blew. The only damage done was a large hole in the side of a very nice rig.

If you are a fan of watching youtube videos of street drag races, you've probably come across some random dude holding a portable blow torch applying heat to a bottle of nitrous oxide. At first glance, it seems downright dangerous, but supposedly if temperatures outside are to cold, increasing the bottle temperature of nitrous oxide will enable the pressure to be close to ambient and allow for more nitrous oxide to be pushed through the system.

The logic behind this practice seems to be true until you understand the ideal gas law of PV=nRT. We’ve all come across this formula in highschool, but its application remains true today. N equals moles or the actual amount of gas to achieve more power. Heating the bottle does in increase pressure, but does little in actually adding more nitrous oxide into the combustion chamber, which is actually what you want for more power.