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Supercooled Water
Status: Real
On December 7th, Matt Sparks went to get some bottled water out of his garage. The temperature in the garage was below the freezing point of water, but he noticed that the water in the bottles was still liquid. However, when he moved the water, it instantly froze. He has some videos on his site showing what happened. They're pretty cool, and if you're not aware of the phenomenon of supercooled water (as I wasn't), you might think there's some kind of trickery involved. But there's not. Matt writes:

These videos were recorded with a Canon Powershot S50 digital camera. They have not be altered in any way, other than to reencode them to xvid from mjpeg to reduce size. I assure you that the liquid you see in them is truly water with nothing added to it. It is straight from the bottle. The bottled water I happened to have was Nestle Pure Life Purified Water.

Some quick googling reveals that supercooling is a well-documented, though mysterious, behavior of water. What it means is that water, if it contains relatively few impurities, can be cooled to below its freezing point without crystallizing. But if you disturb the water, it instantly crystallizes. I'm tempted to try this experiment, but with the temperature outside in the 60s here in San Diego, I'll have to use my freezer.
Science
Posted by The Curator on Tue Dec 13, 2005


It is a matter of pressure. As pressure increases boiling point goes up and freezing point goes down.
Posted by Chris Fryman  in  Florida  on  Wed Oct 10, 2007  at  11:42 PM
I just want to give props to the Cat's Cradle reference. Huzzah!
Posted by M V  in  Penn State  on  Sat Nov 03, 2007  at  02:16 AM
This is not a matter of pressure. This is a matter of impurities and crystalization. The opposite thing happens with super heated water. Shaking may not work but just a smaller disturbance would do to turn it to ice
Posted by Demon1337  on  Wed Apr 23, 2008  at  02:13 PM
sometimes the "superheating" occurs if you left the cup in the microwave after heating it, then you have to reheat it because it is cold. quite a lot of the impurities would have boiled away in the first heating, so it would be pretty pure. it would boil over once you added an impurity to it, like a cube of sugar. 15
Posted by Serge  on  Mon Oct 25, 2010  at  04:04 PM
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