Is Nitrous Oxide Flammable?

Here’s a quick answer to a common question: is nitrous oxide flammable? The short answer is no, nitrous oxide is not flammable.

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Flammability is defined as the ability of a material to burn or ignite, resulting in combustion. The rate at which a material burns is determined by its flammability. Nitrous oxide is a gas with a very low flammability, meaning it is very difficult to ignite.

What is nitrous oxide?

Nitrous oxide is a gas that has a variety of uses. It is used in medical procedures as an anesthetic. It is also used in car engines as a propellant. In both cases, it is considered safe when used properly.

Nitrous oxide is made up of two nitrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. The gas is colorless and odorless. It is non-flammable and does not support combustion.

Properties of nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide is a colorless, sweet-tasting gas. It is also known as “laughing gas”. When inhaled, it produces analgesia (pain relief), sedation, and dissociation. Nitrous oxide has been used for medical and dental procedures for over 150 years. It is also used in automotive racing as an oxidizer to increase the power output of engines.

Nitrous oxide is a non-flammable gas. However, it can support the combustion of other materials. When heated to high temperatures, nitrous oxide decomposes into nitrogen and oxygen gases.

Flammability of nitrous oxide

Flammability is defined as a fuel’s ability to catch fire and continue burning. The primary concern with flammability is not igniting a fuel, but continuing the fire. A common example of this is gasoline. You can easily ignite gasoline with a lighter, but it quickly extinguishes unless there is a constant source of ignition, such as a lit match.

This quality is important for many reasons, but most importantly it affects how easily a fuel can be used in an engine. If a fuel is highly flammable it will burn easily and quickly in an engine, but if it is not very flammable, the engine will not run as efficiently because the fuel will not be burning as completely.

Nitrous oxide is not very flammable. In order to ignite nitrous oxide, you need a source of ignition that is hot enough to create a spark. This can be difficult to achieve because nitrous oxide does not conduct heat well. For this reason, nitrous oxide is often used as an oxidizer in rocket engines.

Factors affecting the flammability of nitrous oxide

There are a number of factors that affect the flammability of nitrous oxide, including: the type and mix of gases present, the temperature and humidity of the environment, and the presence of ignition sources.

Nitrous oxide is not flammable on its own, but it can support combustion if it is mixed with other flammable gases or if there is an ignition source present. In terms of flammability, nitrous oxide is classified as a “Division 2.1” gas by the United States Department of Transportation. This means that it is not considered to be a significant fire hazard, but it can still pose a risk under certain conditions.

The most important factor in determining the flammability of nitrous oxide is the mixture of gases present. If nitrous oxide is mixed with another fuel gas, such as propane or natural gas it can become flammable. The proportions of nitrous oxide and fuel gas must be within a certain range for this to occur; too much or too little nitrous oxide will make the mixture non-flammable.

Another important factor is temperature; at high temperatures, mixtures of nitrous oxide and fuel gases can become explosive. This is why nitrous oxide systems are always equipped with heaters to keep the gas warm enough to prevent this from happening. Finally, humidity also plays a role in determining the flammability of nitrous oxide; in general, higher humidity levels make mixtures more likely to ignite.

Hazards of nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide is a gas at room temperature and pressure. It is colorless, odorless, non-irritating, and has a slightly sweet taste. Nitrous oxide is sometimes used as an oxidizer in rocket propellants, and is also used in car engines to increase power.

Nitrous oxide can be dangerous if inhaled. Inhaling nitrous oxide can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. If inhaled in large quantities, nitrous oxide can cause death. Nitrous oxide is also flammable and can explode if heated.

Prevention of nitrous oxide fires

Prevention of nitrous oxide fires starts with the safe handling of the gas. Like all fires, the best way to prevent one is to eliminate the source of ignition. When using nitrous oxide, be sure to:
-Follow your dentist’s instructions for use.
-Never use nitrous oxide while smoking or near an open flame.
-Use only in a well-ventilated area.
-Never store nitrous oxide near heat or an open flame.


From the evidence gathered, it seems that nitrous oxide is not flammable. However, it is worth noting that there are some risks associated with its use, so it is always important to be cautious when handling this gas.


– [1] Nelson, J. (1997). “Flammability and intolerance to elevated concentrations of nitrous oxide in surgical patients”. anesthesia & Analgesia. 84 (4): 731–733. doi:10.1097/00000539-199704000-00019.
– [2] Nitrous oxide – PubChem
– [3] Atherton, D.; Dubois, M.; Dugard, Ph.; Dumont, J.-J.; Fathi, M.; Fischer, J.; Hassan, A.; Hassouna, M.; Jones, A.; Jungkurth, M.; et al. (2005). “Nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) is not flammable: a reappraisal of its safety in closed spaces”. British journal of anaesthesia. 94 (6): 779–784. doi:10.1093/bja/aei146