Late-night television was once awash in a commercial hawking the "amazing Ginsu knife" that never needed sharpening. In the infamous ad, the blade carved through tin cans with ease and then deftly cut paper-thin slices of tomato. Engineers have recently produced an innovative industrial cutting device with Ginsu knife¿like capabilities that uses a supersonic stream of high-pressure liquid nitrogen. The so-called Nitrojet slices through just about anything--steel girders, concrete slabs, stacks of fabric, meat carcasses--and never gets dull.
Nitrojet technology was originally developed in the 1990s by scientists at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL) as a nonthermal method to cut open barrels of combustible waste. Ron Warnecke, president of TRUtech, an Idaho Falls¿based firm that handles decontamination and decommissioning efforts for nuclear weapons facilities, stumbled on the still developmental system in the late 1990s when he was searching for an environmentally safe way to clean and cut up plutonium-processing equipment. TRUtech later licensed the technology and developed INEL's prototype into a salable product. Warnecke has since set up a new company, NitroCision, to market the device.
This article was originally published with the title Cryogenic Cutting.