Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, nitrous, dinitrogen oxide or dinitrogen monoxide, is a chemical compound, an oxide of nitrogen with the formula N2O. At elevated temperatures, nitrous oxide is a powerful oxidizer like molecular oxygen.
Nitrous oxide has significant medical uses, especially in surgery and dentistry, for its anesthetic and pain-reducing effects. Its colloquial name “laughing gas”, coined by Humphry Davy, is due to the euphoric effects upon inhaling it, a property that has led to its recreational use as a dissociative anesthetic. This is not without dangers. It depletes the vitamin B12 in the body of the user, leads to irreversible brain damage, and excessive use can even lead to spinal cord injury.
It is on the World Health Organisation’s List of Essential Medicines, The safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system. It is also used as an oxidizer in rocket propellants, and in motor racing to increase the power output of engines.