ice melting

On hot summer days you might really enjoy a glass with ice, just because you like a cold drink. Have you watched the ice in your glass up close?

This glass of ice water shows that the ice floats at the top. You probably see this all the time.

We’ve done a few investigations just watching ice melt. By taking some video and speeding it up, you get to see the whole process in just a few seconds. Here’s an example where we take ice that’s made from water with red dye. This way, as the ice melts you get to trace where that new liquid goes.

The red ice makes it easy to see where it goes after it’s turned into a liquid. (Food coloring in water is really fun to watch even when it isn’t from melting ice. Maybe we’ll try this later!) Also, these particular ice cubes are made in Han Solo frozen in carbonite ice cube trays. You can’t tell, but maybe you or your parents can appreciate this. Sorry, Captain Solo!

When you watch the ice melt, it’s funny that it goes from the top of the glass and falls to the bottom. What makes it do this? Why did it float in the first place? What would make it sink?

There are other liquids besides water that we can’t drink, but we can still put ice in them (as long as we’re very careful and label these liquids so we don’t accidentally put them in our mouths). We decided to compare what regular (water) ice does when it melts in water compared to when it melts in rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) that you can get at a pharmacy or grocery store.

Here’s a fast timelapse of these two, side-by-side. We think there’s a lot of interesting things going on, even at the beginning before any melting has happened. We added some salt at the bottom of the isopropyl alcohol to make it a little easier to see and to make some salt water as the ice melted.

Ice melts in water and isopropyl alcohol in different ways. You might notice where the ice goes and how it changes in each glass. You can also see some things happening outside the glass that might be interesting.

We like making these videos because then we can replay these episodes really quickly and make comparisons. But it’s also great just to see how ice melts in different ways in real time. You could make videos; or, you could write notes or take pictures or just observe and talk to your family about what you’re seeing. And then you can try melting the ice in other ways. We’d be excited to hear what you observe!