We all heard about it we all know what it can do, but how does it work? Nitrous oxide, or 'laughing gas' as it's also known, is not actually flammable at air temperature, which is a real relief to dentists around the world.
But this soon changes when it's heated. Increase the temperature to approximately 1300 degree Celsius and all hell breaks loose. At this point, it decomposes exothermically into nitrogen and oxygen, which is why it's used in engines to increase power.
An engine works on an explosion of fuel and oxygen. The problem is that air is only about 21% oxygen, so it's not a very efficient explosion and not all of the fuel is burnt. This soon changes with the introduction of nitrous oxide.
Inject this gas into the combustion chamber, or add it to the fuel/air mix beforehand, and the explosion is far more efficient as the nitrous gives off extra oxygen to fuel the detonation.And nitrous oxide is very cold when it escapes compression, which makes it denser so more can fit into the combustion chamber, making an even bigger bang.
By adding a nitrous oxide system (NOS) to a motorcycle, you can gain up to 50 horsepower at the push of a button, but you have to think of reliability. While an engine of 1,000cc and over can fairly happily take this level of boost, you'll start to get into difficulties if you go any higher.
NOS kits can deliver over 100 horsepower but this puts too much strain on the engine's internals, so if you're going to really go for it, you'd best upgrade the conrods, pistons and crank.
The other disadvantage is that it's used up making the power, so the increase only lasts as long as the supply of nitrous you can carry around with you. A 1,000gram bottle will last around 40 to 50 seconds of continuous use.