As 2010 draws to a close and the western world celebrates Christmas, for many it’s a time of indulgence – whether that’s an indulgence in food & drink, gifts, or simply the love and time spent with family at this festive time of year.

If you’re reading this while enjoying a glass of something seasonal, let’s spare a thought for the gases used throughout an array of festive applications.

At gasworld we often point out that there’s no escaping industrial gases, they have a role to play in so many walks of life, and it’s no different during this celebrated season.

As we all can see, the basic elements of carbon and oxygen are found in everyday life, both for sustenance and metabolism; as well as for all the things we touch and react with. Carbon dioxide (CO2) in particular, as a basic molecule, is essentially a greater part of this annual holiday.

From frozen turkeys to instant coffee
So as champagne corks continue to pop over the next few days and of course with the advent of the New Year, CO2 will be most readily used and found in practically everything we do. From the beverages we drink, whether this happens to be a premium champagne, a beer or a soft drink, CO2 is often a key ingredient added to these beverages.

“Without this simple molecule being added or naturally produced from fermentation, the beverages would simply be quite flat and the enjoyment we find in drinking these beverages would not be quite the same,” gasworld writer and President of Advanced Cryogenics Ltd, Sam Rushing, explains.

It’s not just in beverages that CO2 contributes to our seasonal enjoyment this week, as everything from a frozen turkey or frozen vegetables, to packaged food products and even a fresh jar of instant coffee to nurse that next-day-hangover are brought to us with the help of gases.

Instant coffee for example, often also referred to as soluble coffee, is commercially prepared by means of either freeze-drying or spray drying, after which it can be rehydrated. And packaged food products ranging from chilled meats or vegetables, through to dairy products like cheese, and ready meals and desserts are often delivered to supermarket shelves with the benefit of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP).

Rushing adds, “More often these days, frozen appetizers, processed and frozen meats and entrees may often contain CO2 from many types of applications in basic meat and frozen specialty food processing, meat grinding, and freezing such as IQF; and often the modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) contain a CO2 mix.”

“So many of the holiday foods are processed or treated with CO2 (and other gases) in one form or another.”

The Christmas and New year holidays are of course so epitomised in the western world by the celebration of life, family enjoyment and an investment in entertainment. As explored in last year’s Christmas day gasworld feature, some aspects of the arts are not without their dose of industrial gas.

On the stage, often CO2 is used in the so-called ‘fog effect’ – thus when attending your favorite play, concert, or performance, CO2 vapour as a heavier-than-air favoured gas for this application creates a unique ambiance.

“These dry ice fog machines,” Rushing explains, “are essentially a drum or tank filled with water, using a heating element to enhance the sublimation of dry ice solid to vapour CO2 by heating the water. Also found is a basket containing the dry ice, which can be raised and lowered into the water bath, thus turning the effect on and off at will.”

“The machine or device should contain blowers for directing the fog as required in the performance. Thus the sublimation of CO2 in a solid state to a vapor state releases the magic of a fog effect in the theatre.”

If we were to really extend the parameters of gas application, we might also consider the role of gases in the pulp & paper industry and all that wrapping paper that ends up scattered around homes the world over.

In Western culture, gifts are often wrapped in wrapping paper and accompanied by a gift note – paper and tags that tend to end-up strewn throughout the house on the big day itself! It’s thought that tonnes of additional waste are annually generated at this special time of the year, such is the volume of paper and plastics (shopping bags) that are exchanged during the season.

We might even consider the use of neon and/or argon in lighting applications at this illuminating time of year, in addition to the gases that will have been used in the production of a whole range of electronic games, gadgets and gizmos exchanged over the next few days,

“So enjoy the holidays,” Rushing concludes, “it is really interesting to note that a basic molecule as carbon dioxide is a significant factor in the Christmas and New Year holidays celebrations – from the beverages we drink, to the foods we prepare and consume, as well as special seasonal entertainment which we enjoy during this special time of the year.”

Spare a thought for the gases used this Christmas, in applications that we might not even give a second thought to, but that are oh-so-useful in ensuring we have a fabulous festive holiday...

Season's Greetings one and all!