Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nerds and Water

Ok, this is going to get really nerdy, really

There is an interesting thing that happens in our office related to water bottles. We have a mini-fridge where we store water bottles and other stuff. The top part of the fridge has a little freezer part. It can be seen in the photos below.

The freezer is at such a temperature that the water gets nice and cold, but the water does not freeze. However, sometimes I can take a water bottle out of the freezer, bring it to my desk, set it down and the water inside will freeze and crystallize without me doing anything. I do not open the water bottle so the seal is intact the water just freezes. Some photos of this can be seen below...the water always freezes from top to bottom...most of the time. It may not look like it...but the water is freezing to slush.

Other times, the water will not freeze up...however, if I take the water bottle and lightly bang it against the side of the table or shake it...this action starts the crystals forming. I think that if I smack the water bottle on the edge of the desk, the point of impact will be the location at which the freezing starts...but I'm not sure. Experiments forthcoming.

Again, this is all without opening the water bottle.

Ok, as a bunch of nerds, we're trying to figure out WHY it happens. Initially we considered that there is a change in pressure from the fridge to the office because we're at altitude...6000 ft. We debunked this for a couple of reasons...the fridge is not a "pressure vessel" but also because the pressure inside the water bottle can't change that drastically because the seal does not get broken and the bottle does not noticeably change in size.

The mechanical engineers believe the whole process is somehow related to dissolved gases in the water. Since I don't know what this means, I have to disagree with their theory. This is a very common response from scientists...if you don't understand something, it must be wrong. I've vehemently disagreed and went so far as saying that it is the dumbest thing I've ever heard...they knew I was joking.

Coming from a chemistry background I think it has to do with activation energy...the energy required for a reaction to take place. For example, with water if you add enough heat to boils. If you remove enough freezes. My thought is that the action of shaking the bottle releases enough "heat" from the system to start the water freezing.

The mechanical engineers also believe that the water is somehow already below the freezing point temperature when it comes out of the freezer...but for some reason it doesn't freeze.

We're having and experiment tomorrow at 0700. We will put 5 bottles in the freezer tonight so they will be nice and cold by tomorrow morning...and we're going to try to figure this out. We have thermometers and everything all ready...very methodical.

It may be tough to sleep adrenaline is pumping...the can cut the tension with a knife around here! Good thing that we're getting "danger pay".

2 more days of work until R&R!

1 comment:

  1. I have nothing to add to this, with the exception that I will look forward to Brian reading this post. I would love to know what he thinks. Happy Father's Day Kevin! We'll see you very soon!