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Awesome Science Experiment: Make Hot Ice with Baking Soda and Vinegar


Step 4:  Pour the cooled solution onto a few crystals that you scraped from the pan.

I scraped off some crystals from the bottom of the pan and put them in a plastic tray.

Then Aidan poured the solution very slowly onto the crystals.

The first little bit took a few seconds to crystallize… but it DID!

He kept pouring, a little at a time…

If you pour too quickly, the crystals will spread out horizontally.  So we went nice and slow.

It was so fun to watch!  By the end, Aidan was pouring just a drop at a time, and we could actually watch each drop piling up on top of the tower of hot ice.

We didn’t get a chance to measure our final tower, but it was impressive!

Why does this work?

The sodium acetate solution contains water.  We reduced the amount of water in the solution by boiling it, but there is still water in there. The water molecules keep the sodium acetate from forming crystals.  Well, crystals may start to form, but as a few molecules join together, the water molecules pull them apart again.

When we cooled the solution, we were able to bring the sodium acetate down to a temperature lower than the point at which it would normally become a solid.  This word for this is supercooled.

By the way, we think of melting and freezing points mainly in reference to water, but all substances have a melting/freezing point.  For example, copper remains a solid until it reaches 1,984 degrees Fahrenheit!

Back to the sodium acetate… The crystals in the tray provided a starting point for crystals to grow in the solution, called a nucleation site.  This gave the sodium acetate the push it needed to crystallize!

The directions on Instructables said to filter the solution to get rid of any impurities that might inhibit the crystallization process.  We didn’t do that step, and it turned out fine.

The crystallization process gives off heat, so the hot ice is hot to the touch!  Not hot enough to burn, though.  We all had fun touching it!

Our tower was pretty flimsy and broke quickly, but we had a great time with this science experiment.  If you want to repeat the process, you can melt the crystals down into a liquid again, cool it again, and make another tower!

Also, I was a little worried about our pot, but it was super easy to clean.  The sodium acetate dissolves easily and rinses right off.

Have fun with science!


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