While we talk about many different dry ice topics every week, from fun science experiments to the manufacturing process, today we are talking about the history of dry ice—and we promise it’s not a dry topic! Here is a brief history of the one, the only, the amazing dry ice.
The first to officially record what we know of today as the dry ice was the French chemist Thilorier. He recorded the presence of solid carbon dioxide in 1835 after he opened up a cylinder of liquid carbon dioxide to observe it. So much liquid had evaporated that, at the bottom of the container, there was a solid block of dry ice.
Over the course of the next six decades, dry ice was studied in university labs throughout the world but never used for anything outside of the classroom. Students would study the unique things it would do and enjoy playing around with it, but they never really put it to use. In 1897, a doctor in the British Army Medical Corps got a patent for solid carbon dioxide or dry ice. He wanted to use the mixture to create soda water that could be mixed with whiskey. However, his plans weren’t thought out very well and the dry ice couldn’t serve its patented purpose.
In 1925, commercial use of dry ice began with Prest Air Devices. They created a CO2 fire extinguisher and also experimented with many other (failed) uses for dry ice. They created solid blocks of dry ice to use for demonstrations and attempted to market it to railroad companies. Dry ice was a huge hit and was sold to a company known as DryIce Corporation of America, who trademarked the name and attempted to patent the substance.
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