How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 1008

Could you describe the process of an ice cube melting only from ambient (room) temperature? — JAS, Malta, NY
An ice cube is a crystal of water molecules. It is only stable up to a temperature of 32° F (0° C). When you place it in ambient temperature, it gradually warms until it reaches 32° F and then its surface begins to melt. As heat from the room flows into the ice cube, its molecules begin to separate briefly from one another and to exchange neighbors. These molecules lose their crystalline rigidity and structure and to become liquid. The liquid that forms is still at 32° F, but it has less order than the crystalline ice had.

As more heat flows into the mixture of ice and water, the ratio of solid ice to liquid water gradually changes and the fraction of liquid water increases. But only after all the ice has converted to water does the temperature of the water begin to rise significantly above 32° F.


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