The gas is made of a mixture of fifty percent nitrous oxide (N2O or laughing gas) and fifty percent oxygen (O2). The ability to combine nitrous oxide (nitrous oxide is the common name; dinitrogen monoxide, systematic name) and oxygen at high pressure while remaining in the gaseous form is caused by the Poynting effect (after John Henry Poynting, an English physicist).
The Poynting effect involves the dissolution of gaseous O2 when bubbled through liquid N2O, with vaporisation of the liquid to form a gaseous O2/N2O mixture.
Inhalation of pure nitrous oxide over a continued period would render a human hypoxic, and the 50% oxygen content prevents this from occurring. The two gases will separate at low temperatures (<4 °C), which would permit administration of hypoxic mixtures. Therefore, it is not given from a cold cylinder without being shaken (usually by cylinder inversion) to remix the gases.
Read more about this topic: Nitrous Oxide And Oxygen
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