Knowing about dry ice uses, its properties and safety measures for handling is useful for a growing number of industries and businesses.

The importance of dry ice has increased in recent years, based on its unique properties and, consequently, its uses. At the center of this increase in applications is its ability to sublimate, that is, to go from a solid state to a gas without passing through a liquid state.

At the same time, the rise of dry ice uses must also be understood in the context of greater access to suitable storage equipment, including tailor-made cryogenic equipment. A scenario that has also led to the rise in the use of technical gasses and food gasses.

Thus, the availability of cryogenic storage equipment facilitates the safe handling and transportation of dry ice, as it requires specific conditions. It is partly thanks to this type of solution that the dry ice market is experiencing significant growth, which is expected to continue in the coming years. In this sense, consultancy firms such as Future Market Insights predict a CAGR growth rate of 7.8% for the market value of dry ice until 2034, when its market value will reach 4.46 billion dollars.

Want to learn more about dry ice uses, its definition and safe ways of using it? Keep reading to find out.

What is dry ice?

Basically, dry ice is carbon dioxide (CO2) in a solid state.

This compound remains in a solid state at an extremely low temperature. To do this, the production process involves the compression and cooling of CO2 to a gaseous state.


Expanded later at atmospheric pressure, it solidifies, reaching the state of dry ice for which it is known. This element is then hydraulically compressed using a chamber, so that blocks or pellets are obtained for a more convenient use.

Dry ice characteristics

  • Sublimation: at room temperature, dry ice sublimates, going directly from solid to gas.
  • Low temperature: its temperature is extremely low, approximately -78.5°C (-109.3°F).
  • Non-toxic: concentrations of CO2 released from dry ice are not toxic, although it should be used in well-ventilated areas to avoid gas buildup.
  • Specialized storage: storing dry ice requires certain precautions, such as an insulated container to minimize temperature losses and unwanted sublimations, as well as adequate ventilation. Likewise, direct contact with the skin should be avoided, as it can cause frostbite burns.

Dry ice formula

The chemical formula of dry ice is CO2, which indicates that:

  • It is made up of carbon atoms (C) and oxygen atoms (O)
  • There are two oxygen atoms in each carbon dioxide molecule

Differences between regular ice and dry ice

Dry ice temperature

Dry ice has a much lower temperature than regular ice. Thus, if dry ice sublimes at approximately -78.5°C (-109.3°F), regular ice freezes at 0°C (32°F).

This is partly why dry ice is used so effectively for refrigeration and quick freezing applications.

Keep learning: Refrigerated tanks: the perfect solution for storing gasses

Additionally, it must be noted that dry ice sublimates, going directly from solid to gaseous state (compared to common ice, which melts when heated, turning into liquid water). This other characteristic has made dry ice a priority in refrigeration and freezing operations that want to avoid liquid waste.

Duration and resistance

Dry ice has a limited life under normal atmospheric and environmental conditions, so it must be stored in specific containers. Regular ice, on the other hand, can last longer than dry ice, especially if it is kept in a cold environment.

At the same time, dry ice is generally more fragile than regular ice, as it can easily break when knocked or handled roughly.

Dry ice uses and applications: what is dry ice used for?

Food refrigeration

As mentioned above, dry ice is used for refrigeration of perishable foods, particularly for temperature control during transport. It stands out for providing intense and uniform cooling without leaving any liquid residues.

Related content: Cryogenic food processing: what it is and its characteristics

Cold chain maintenance

Likewise, it is capable of ensuring cold chain maintenance, preserving the quality and freshness of food and medical products.

For example, dry ice is used to transport biological samples, vaccines, or medications, in addition to the preservation of biological and chemical samples that need to be kept at low temperatures.

Industrial sector

We just mentioned how the food and pharmaceutical industries make use of dry ice’s sublimation to safely transport and store products that require constant low temperatures.

Additionally, there are other products that may require dry ice for transportation, such as some chemicals or electronics.

In turn, dry ice is also used in industrial cleaning processes of machinery or equipment without the need for disassembly and without residual moisture, accounting for dry ice uses in industries such as electronics and others related to manufacturing.

Scientific research

Several scientific research processes rely on dry ice for their advancement. This is the case of the sample preservation at low temperatures, which plays a crucial role in ecology, molecular biology or chemistry, among others.

Keep reading: Thermal shields: why are they important in cryogenic pipes?

Other applications

Dry ice is also used in events and theatrical productions, as it helps create fog effects during the sublimation process. Other dry ice uses include pest control and fire extinguishing.

Safety guidelines when handling dry ice

Is dry ice toxic?

Dry ice is not toxic in itself, since its composition does not pose a toxic danger to humans. However, there is a risk of suffocation if dry ice displaces oxygen (reducing its availability) in a closed environment or a poorly ventilated space.

It is also necessary to mention that it can cause freeze burns when coming into direct contact with the skin, or cause explosions if stored incorrectly (due to pressure build-up).

Recommendations for disposing of dry ice

Letting dry ice subside naturally is considered a safe way to dispose of dry ice, as long as it is done in a well-ventilated area (and never in an airtight container). In such a way, dry ice will evaporate completely. It is possible to use warm water to speed up the process.

In any case, it is essential to use gloves and protective glasses for the eyes, in order to avoid frostbite burns and injuries. Finally, if large quantities are involved, it may be advisable to contact waste management companies.

At Cryospain, we recommend the use of tailor-made cryogenic equipment, designed for the storage of dry ice, which will make a difference in the safety of any operation involving this substance. Get in touch with us and we will help you.


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