Video:Why Ice Floatswith Anne Marie Helmenstine
Learn why ice floats so that you can understand the properties of ice and water. Density is the main factor for why ice floats.See Transcript
Transcript:Why Ice FloatsA substance floats if it is less dense, or has less mass per unit volume, than other components in a mixture. For example, if you toss a handful of rocks into a bucket of water, the rocks, which are dense compared to the water, will sink. The water, which is less dense than the rocks, will float. Basically, the rocks push the water out of the way, or displace it. For an object to be able to float, it has to displace a weight of fluid equal to its own weight.
Density of WaterWater reaches its maximum density at 4°C (or 40°F). As it cools further and freezes into ice, it actually becomes less dense. On the other hand, most substances are most dense in their solid state than in their liquid state. Water is different because of hydrogen bonding.
A water molecule is made from one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms, strongly joined to each other with covalent bonds. Water molecules are also attracted to each other by weaker chemical bonds between the positively-charged hydrogen atoms and the negatively-charged oxygen atoms of neighboring water molecules.
As water cools below 4°C, the hydrogen bonds adjust to hold the negatively charged oxygen atoms apart. This produces a crystal lattice, which is commonly known as 'ice'.
Density of IceIce floats because it is about 9% less dense than liquid water. In other words, ice takes up about 9% more space than water, so a liter of ice weighs less than a liter of water. The heavier water displaces the lighter ice, so ice floats to the top.
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