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Cracking fun

Cracking fun

Follow these instructions to see the power of frozen water
What’s happening

Water is one of a few chemicals that expands when it changes from liquid to solid. As water cools, it contracts like any other substance – the molecules slow down, they have less energy and get closer together.

But as its temperature drops below four degrees Celsius, water begins to expand. The molecules begin forming stiff bonds with their neighbouring molecules, which push them outwards to form a hollow structure, or crystal lattice, which can float in liquid water.

As water freezes and expands, it can exert incredible pressure. For example, it has enough energy to burst open the walls of plant and animal cells, crack rocks, burst water pipes and crack your pencil!

Plant and animal cells contain water. As this water turns to ice, the cells expand, causing them to burst. In mountain and polar explorers, such burst cells can cause frostbite, which is an irreversible condition. Also, severe damage to fruit and vegetable crops can occur when sudden cold snaps cause plant cells to burst



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