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Author Topic: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?  (Read 26151 times)

epicdennyblaine

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Something quite odd happens every time I freeze up a tray of ice cubes in my freezer. One random cube in the tray grows what looks like a stalagmite: a thin spindle of ice that protrudes sometimes over an inch upward from the top surface of its cube.

Now, I'm positive these are not actually stalagmites, which by definition would be caused by drippings from the ceiling of my freezer. These funny protrusions instead appear to be caused by a small quantity of near-frozen water jetissoning itself upward from the cube, or cube-to-be, and then instantaneously freezing. Sometimes they are oriented more or less vertically, and sometimes on a considerable angle. I can't recall seeing such formations in other peoples' ice cubes. What the heck are they? What causes them?

Thanks in advance, if you know the answer!
« Last Edit: 08/07/2011 14:47:53 by chris »

neilep

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #1 on: 18/04/2004 11:56:36 »
WOW !!...sounds like divine intervention to me...better keep it hush hush else you'll incur pilgrimages to your holy freezer tray.:D

How bizarre though, with my complete lack of any knowledge in this field I am unable to contribute a sensible answer. Have you tried moving the ice cube tray to a different part of the freezer ? what happens then ?...or is it, do you think ,the crop circle version of ice cube madness ?..perhaps you should invite a camera crew to study said occurance !!;)

I hope someone here can help....very interesting though. good luck in getting an answer.


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gsmollin

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #2 on: 18/04/2004 14:43:59 »
You must have an extremely cold freezer, or the water is not very pure. This phenomenon is common when rapid solidifcation occurs of a substance that is expanding. Water expands when it freezes, but it is usually pretty slow in a freezer, so we see only some cracking. To get the breakouts, you must have the freezer set very low, or have a rapid freezing plate in the freezer, which is sometimes used to rapid-freeze food for storage.

neilep

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #3 on: 18/04/2004 14:48:03 »
See?...didn't take long for someone with more clever brain cells than I to answer that...nice one gsmollin !!....of course...I knew that all the time !!!! *cheeky smirk*

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gsmollin

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #4 on: 19/04/2004 01:06:48 »
It's not really cleverness, I'm afraid, just experience. This problem really becomes extreme with polymerization of plastics at elevated temperatures, and breakouts are pretty common. It's a problem for me because I use plastic potting compounds frequently.

neilep

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #5 on: 18/04/2004 11:56:36 »
WOW !!...sounds like divine intervention to me...better keep it hush hush else you'll incur pilgrimages to your holy freezer tray.:D

How bizarre though, with my complete lack of any knowledge in this field I am unable to contribute a sensible answer. Have you tried moving the ice cube tray to a different part of the freezer ? what happens then ?...or is it, do you think ,the crop circle version of ice cube madness ?..perhaps you should invite a camera crew to study said occurance !!;)

I hope someone here can help....very interesting though. good luck in getting an answer.


'Men are the same as women...just inside out !'

gsmollin

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #6 on: 18/04/2004 14:43:59 »
You must have an extremely cold freezer, or the water is not very pure. This phenomenon is common when rapid solidifcation occurs of a substance that is expanding. Water expands when it freezes, but it is usually pretty slow in a freezer, so we see only some cracking. To get the breakouts, you must have the freezer set very low, or have a rapid freezing plate in the freezer, which is sometimes used to rapid-freeze food for storage.

neilep

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #7 on: 18/04/2004 14:48:03 »
See?...didn't take long for someone with more clever brain cells than I to answer that...nice one gsmollin !!....of course...I knew that all the time !!!! *cheeky smirk*

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gsmollin

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #8 on: 19/04/2004 01:06:48 »
It's not really cleverness, I'm afraid, just experience. This problem really becomes extreme with polymerization of plastics at elevated temperatures, and breakouts are pretty common. It's a problem for me because I use plastic potting compounds frequently.

neilep

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #9 on: 19/04/2004 12:00:27 »
Thanks Gsmollin... i feel a little elevated by your kind modesty, though I would say that your experince has contributed to your cleverness factor as I hope mine has too now thanks to you....

On a similar topic though, I have heard that boiling water first and then placing it in the freezer actually makes it freeze quicker than just cold water!!...did i hallucinate that ?..or did I really hear such a thing ?...oh...and what do you do that brings you into contact with plastic potting compounds ?

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bezoar

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #10 on: 20/04/2004 00:47:19 »
I can't imagine that hot water would freeze faster than cold water.  Another note of interest.  I have two ice trays in my freezer, both plastic.  In one, the ice just pops out, but in the other tray, the ice sticks and is hard to come out, or fractures when it pops out.  Anyone know why?

gsmollin

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #11 on: 20/04/2004 00:57:07 »
To Neilep, The water freezes faster after boiling because it is softer water, with a higher freezing temperature. Boiling removes most of the calcium hardness in the water, and that raises it's freezing temperature. I assume the two samples of water begin their freezing race at the same temperature.

By profession, I am an electrical engineer, and I design remote sensing electronic equipment. I unfortunately am forced to pot most of this equipment in plastic resins for environmental protection, and it is a major headache.

To bezoar, Insufficient data for meaningful answer. The two trays are different, so they may have a different shape, different plastic, or different surface finish.

chris

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #12 on: 20/04/2004 04:24:28 »
Good point about removing the temporary hardness by heating water, but it suffices to say that, even taking this into consideration, the cold water will always freeze faster (unless the amount of dissolved solute is huge) than the hot one.

Whilst the hot water will lose energy more rapidly than cold water (because there is a greater thermal gradient (see our 'wind chill' question of the week) it will never 'catch up' with the cold water simply because cold water has less energy (heat) to lose before it freezes.

Chris

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gsmollin

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #13 on: 20/04/2004 13:54:53 »
Yes, of course cold water will freeze before hot water. Like I said, I was assuming the boiled water had been cooled to the same temperature as the un-boiled water before we began the freezing-race experiment. Any other starting conditions make comparisons pretty meaningless.

neilep

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #14 on: 20/04/2004 18:32:37 »
Well I'm glad I wasn't having mind mirages when I heard that all those years ago....It's amazing how one little thing can spark a distant memory form the utter dregs of ones mind eh ?...Thanks for the answers guys.

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MayoFlyFarmer

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #15 on: 21/04/2004 06:08:38 »
I actually have heard that if you want ice cubes to freeze fast to use hot tap water instead of cold tap water.  Whoever told me this had some crazy physics reason why it worked too but I've been trying to remember for years what it was because it perplexes me how it could overcome the energy difference.  I've been using hot water for my ice for a long time, and it does seem to freeze faster, although i haven't done a side by side experiment, could just be my imagination.  Has anyone else heard of this besides neil and myself?

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Donnah

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #16 on: 22/04/2004 20:12:28 »
Justin, if memory serves me correctly the cold water was frozen long before the hot was, as you would expect.  We concluded that hot water froze faster in a relative way.

bezoar

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #17 on: 23/04/2004 03:40:00 »
To gsmollin,
Identical ice trays, bought at the same time.  What's up with the one with the sticky cubes?

gsmollin

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #18 on: 23/04/2004 19:26:44 »
Insufficient data for meaningful answer. Most likely explanation is surface finish, if you are sure they are of same shape and material.

epicdennyblaine

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #19 on: 26/04/2004 02:40:26 »
quote:
Originally posted by gsmollin

You must have an extremely cold freezer, or the water is not very pure. This phenomenon is common when rapid solidifcation occurs of a substance that is expanding. Water expands when it freezes, but it is usually pretty slow in a freezer, so we see only some cracking. To get the breakouts, you must have the freezer set very low, or have a rapid freezing plate in the freezer, which is sometimes used to rapid-freeze food for storage.


Dear gsmollin,

Thanks for your input here. Our freezer is rather cold (keeps the ice cream rock hard), AND our water is not that pure. We filter it through a Brita, but we are in an old building with really crummy pipes. Just for kicks I will try freezing up some purified water, adjusting the temp setting, and, as Neilep suggested, moving the tray around. I'll follow up with a post here if I get any noteworthy results.

Thanks all,

Jon


Intensity

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #20 on: 26/04/2004 09:21:11 »
OK, my water is filtered by a 3 stage plus reverse osmosis system in good working order.
I get these stalagmites all the time.
http://www.members.shaw.ca/phantoms/PICT0057_.jpg
http://www.members.shaw.ca/phantoms/PICT0059_.jpg

Any thoughts?
« Last Edit: 26/04/2004 09:24:59 by Intensity »

tweener

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #21 on: 26/04/2004 14:49:36 »
That's Cool!  (Pun intended!) :D

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neilep

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #22 on: 26/04/2004 20:33:16 »
quote:
Originally posted by Intensity

OK, my water is filtered by a 3 stage plus reverse osmosis system in good working order.
I get these stalagmites all the time.
http://www.members.shaw.ca/phantoms/PICT0057_.jpg
http://www.members.shaw.ca/phantoms/PICT0059_.jpg

Any thoughts?



WOW !!..I'm quite envious of your perpendicular orientated ice cubes

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gsmollin

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #23 on: 27/04/2004 02:14:45 »
Pretty awesum. I haven't had that happen. In fact, all your ice cubes look like they are bursting. You must be freezing very quickly, so that the outside of the cube is frozen, and the inside breaks through and begins the growth.

chris

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Re: Why do stalagmites (ice spikes) form on my ice cubes?
« Reply #24 on: 27/04/2004 05:21:27 »
Yes, it looks a bit like an ice geyser. Presumably the expansion of the ice surround this forming 'cube' squeezes water out of the top and it forms a column. Is the stalagmite hollow or solid ?

Chris

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