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Drain Cleaning Specialist
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Hot water rapidly cools faster to meet surrounding temps where cold water
is already cold and is slower to freeze.
 

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Vegas Plumber
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100 Posts
Abstract
This physics project seems like it should have an easy answer. Instead, it turns out to be a great illustration of why it is important to base scientific conclusions on the outcome of controlled experiments. Things don't always turn out as we expect!
Objective
The goal of this project is to investigate the question, "Can hot water freeze faster than cold water?" Thorough background research, a precise formulation of the hypothesis, and careful experimental design are especially important for the success of this experiment.
Introduction
It may seem counterintuitive, but folk wisdom and a body of published evidence agree that, under some conditions, warmer water can freeze faster than colder water (for an excellent review on the subject, see Jeng, 2005).
This phenomenon has been known for a long time, but was rediscovered by a Tanzanian high school student, Erasto Mpemba, in the 1960s. He and his classmates were making ice cream, using a recipe that included boiled milk. The students were supposed to wait for the mixture to cool before putting it in the freezer. The remaining space in the freezer was running out, and Mpemba noticed one of his classmates put his mixture in without boiling the milk. To save time and make sure that he got a spot in the freezer, Mpemba put his mixture in while it was still hot. He was surprised to find later that his ice cream froze first (Meng, 2005).
When Mpemba later asked his teacher for an explanation of how his hotter ice cream mixture could freeze before a cooler one, the teacher teased him, "Well all I can say is that is Mpemba physics and not the universal physics" (quote in Jeng, 2005). Mpemba followed his curiosity and did more experiments with both water and milk, which confirmed his initial findings. He sought out an explanation for his findings from a visiting university professor, Dr. Osborne. Work in Dr. Osborne's lab confirmed the results, and Mpemba and Osborne described their experiments in a published paper (Mpemba and Osborne, 1969).

How can it be that hot water freezes faster than colder water? Somehow, the hot water must be able to lose its heat faster than the cold water. In order to understand how this could happen, you will need to do some background research on heat and heat transfer. Here is a quick summary, so that you can be familiar with the terms you will encounter. Heat is a measure of the average molecular motion of matter. Heat can be transferred from one piece of matter to another by four different methods:
  • conduction,
  • convection,
  • evaporation, and
  • radiation.
Conduction is heat transfer by direct molecular interactions, without mass movement of matter. For example, when you pour hot water into a cup, the cup soon feels warm. The water molecules colliding with the inside surface of the cup transfer energy to the cup, warming it up.
Convection is heat transfer by mass movement. You've probably heard the saying that "hot air rises." This happens because it is less dense than colder air. As the hot air rises, it creates currents of air flow. These circulating currents serve to transfer heat, and are an example of convection.
Evaporation is another method of heat transfer. When molecules of a liquid vaporize, they escape from the liquid into the atmosphere. This transition requires energy, since a molecule in the vapor phase has more energy than a molecule in the liquid phase. Thus, as molecules evaporate from a liquid, they take away energy from the liquid, cooling it.
Radiation is the final way to transfer heat. For most objects you encounter every day, this would be infrared radiation: light beyond the visible spectrum. Incandescent objects—like light bulb filaments, molten metal or the sun— radiate at visible wavelengths as well.
In addition to researching heat and heat transfer, you should also study previous experiments on this phenomenon. The review article by Monwhea Jeng (Jeng, 2005) is a great place to start. The Jeng article has an excellent discussion on formulating a testable hypothesis for this experiment.
Another excellent article, if you can find it at your local library, is by Jearl Walker, in the September, 1997 issue of Scientific American (Walker, 1977). Walker measured the time taken for various water samples to cool down to the freezing point (0°C), not the time for them to actually freeze. He measured the temperature of the water using a thermocouple, which could be placed at various depths in the beaker. Whether you use a thermocouple or a thermometer, it is important that the sensing portion of the device (thermocouple itself, or the bulb of the thermometer) be immersed in the water in order to get accurate readings. Walker used identical Pyrex beakers for his water samples, since they could go from the stove to the freezer without breaking. He used a metal plate over the stove burner to distribute the heat evenly to the beakers as they were heating. He heated the beakers slowly, and he also kept the beakers covered while heating, so that water that evaporated during heating would be returned to the beaker. Walker notes that "You cannot obtain accurate readings by first heating some water in a teakettle, pouring the water into a beaker already in the freezer and then taking a temperature reading. The water has cooled too much by then" (Walker, 1997, 246). Walker also reported that the air temperature in his freezer was between −8 and −15°C. He advises, "To maintain a consistent air temperature be sure to keep the freezer door shut as much as possible" (Walker, 1977, 246). For further details on his experimental procedure and findings, see the original Scientific American article.

The graph in Figure 1 shows some of Walker's data. The x-axis shows the time it took for the sample to reach 0°C (in minutes). The y-axis shows the initial temperature of the sample (in °C). The graph shows data from six separate experiments (a–f), each with a different symbol:
  1. 50 ml water in small beaker, non-frost-free refrigerator (black squares),
  2. 50 ml water in large beaker, non-frost-free refrigerator (red circles),
  3. 50 ml water in large beaker, frost-free refrigerator (green triangles),
  4. 100 ml water in large beaker, thermocouple near bottom (blue triangles),
  5. 100 ml water in large beaker, covered with plastic wrap, thermocouple near bottom (light blue diamonds),
  6. 100 ml in large beaker, thermocouple near top (magenta triangles).
Under some conditions (b, d, f), he found that samples that were initially hotter reached 0°C faster than samples that were initially cooler, confirming Mpemba's results. Under other conditions (a, e), hotter samples took as long or longer than cooler samples to reach 0°C. The results for experiment c are equivocal–it's difficult to say whether the time differences are significant or not.
 

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Senior Moment
Joined
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1,904 Posts
Abstract
This physics project seems like it should have an easy answer. Instead, it turns out to be a great illustration of why it is important to base scientific conclusions on the outcome of controlled experiments. Things don't always turn out as we expect!
Objective
The goal of this project is to investigate the question, "Can hot water freeze faster than cold water?" Thorough background research, a precise formulation of the hypothesis, and careful experimental design are especially important for the success of this experiment.
Introduction
It may seem counterintuitive, but folk wisdom and a body of published evidence agree that, under some conditions, warmer water can freeze faster than colder water (for an excellent review on the subject, see Jeng, 2005).
This phenomenon has been known for a long time, but was rediscovered by a Tanzanian high school student, Erasto Mpemba, in the 1960s. He and his classmates were making ice cream, using a recipe that included boiled milk. The students were supposed to wait for the mixture to cool before putting it in the freezer. The remaining space in the freezer was running out, and Mpemba noticed one of his classmates put his mixture in without boiling the milk. To save time and make sure that he got a spot in the freezer, Mpemba put his mixture in while it was still hot. He was surprised to find later that his ice cream froze first (Meng, 2005).
When Mpemba later asked his teacher for an explanation of how his hotter ice cream mixture could freeze before a cooler one, the teacher teased him, "Well all I can say is that is Mpemba physics and not the universal physics" (quote in Jeng, 2005). Mpemba followed his curiosity and did more experiments with both water and milk, which confirmed his initial findings. He sought out an explanation for his findings from a visiting university professor, Dr. Osborne. Work in Dr. Osborne's lab confirmed the results, and Mpemba and Osborne described their experiments in a published paper (Mpemba and Osborne, 1969).


How can it be that hot water freezes faster than colder water? Somehow, the hot water must be able to lose its heat faster than the cold water. In order to understand how this could happen, you will need to do some background research on heat and heat transfer. Here is a quick summary, so that you can be familiar with the terms you will encounter. Heat is a measure of the average molecular motion of matter. Heat can be transferred from one piece of matter to another by four different methods:
  • conduction,
  • convection,
  • evaporation, and
  • radiation.
Conduction is heat transfer by direct molecular interactions, without mass movement of matter. For example, when you pour hot water into a cup, the cup soon feels warm. The water molecules colliding with the inside surface of the cup transfer energy to the cup, warming it up.
Convection is heat transfer by mass movement. You've probably heard the saying that "hot air rises." This happens because it is less dense than colder air. As the hot air rises, it creates currents of air flow. These circulating currents serve to transfer heat, and are an example of convection.
Evaporation is another method of heat transfer. When molecules of a liquid vaporize, they escape from the liquid into the atmosphere. This transition requires energy, since a molecule in the vapor phase has more energy than a molecule in the liquid phase. Thus, as molecules evaporate from a liquid, they take away energy from the liquid, cooling it.
Radiation is the final way to transfer heat. For most objects you encounter every day, this would be infrared radiation: light beyond the visible spectrum. Incandescent objects—like light bulb filaments, molten metal or the sun— radiate at visible wavelengths as well.
In addition to researching heat and heat transfer, you should also study previous experiments on this phenomenon. The review article by Monwhea Jeng (Jeng, 2005) is a great place to start. The Jeng article has an excellent discussion on formulating a testable hypothesis for this experiment.
Another excellent article, if you can find it at your local library, is by Jearl Walker, in the September, 1997 issue of Scientific American (Walker, 1977). Walker measured the time taken for various water samples to cool down to the freezing point (0°C), not the time for them to actually freeze. He measured the temperature of the water using a thermocouple, which could be placed at various depths in the beaker. Whether you use a thermocouple or a thermometer, it is important that the sensing portion of the device (thermocouple itself, or the bulb of the thermometer) be immersed in the water in order to get accurate readings. Walker used identical Pyrex beakers for his water samples, since they could go from the stove to the freezer without breaking. He used a metal plate over the stove burner to distribute the heat evenly to the beakers as they were heating. He heated the beakers slowly, and he also kept the beakers covered while heating, so that water that evaporated during heating would be returned to the beaker. Walker notes that "You cannot obtain accurate readings by first heating some water in a teakettle, pouring the water into a beaker already in the freezer and then taking a temperature reading. The water has cooled too much by then" (Walker, 1997, 246). Walker also reported that the air temperature in his freezer was between −8 and −15°C. He advises, "To maintain a consistent air temperature be sure to keep the freezer door shut as much as possible" (Walker, 1977, 246). For further details on his experimental procedure and findings, see the original Scientific American article.


The graph in Figure 1 shows some of Walker's data. The x-axis shows the time it took for the sample to reach 0°C (in minutes). The y-axis shows the initial temperature of the sample (in °C). The graph shows data from six separate experiments (a–f), each with a different symbol:
  1. 50 ml water in small beaker, non-frost-free refrigerator (black squares),
  2. 50 ml water in large beaker, non-frost-free refrigerator (red circles),
  3. 50 ml water in large beaker, frost-free refrigerator (green triangles),
  4. 100 ml water in large beaker, thermocouple near bottom (blue triangles),
  5. 100 ml water in large beaker, covered with plastic wrap, thermocouple near bottom (light blue diamonds),
  6. 100 ml in large beaker, thermocouple near top (magenta triangles).
Under some conditions (b, d, f), he found that samples that were initially hotter reached 0°C faster than samples that were initially cooler, confirming Mpemba's results. Under other conditions (a, e), hotter samples took as long or longer than cooler samples to reach 0°C. The results for experiment c are equivocal–it's difficult to say whether the time differences are significant or not.
Exactly word for word what I was thinking.....:whistling2:
 

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٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶&#
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
That argument doesn't make sense. As soon as it cools down to the temp that the cold water started at, the cold water is even cooler. It SHOULD never be able to catch up.

My theory:
Because of the higher deta T in the hot water, it develops faster moving convection currents. The inertia from these faster moving currents continues even after the hotter water has caught up with the originally cooler water. Since the currents are moving faster in the originally hotter water, it then out runs the originally cooler water.

Whatcha think?

Hot water rapidly cools faster to meet surrounding temps where cold water
is already cold and is slower to freeze.
 

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brown is down
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371 Posts
If i remember correctly from organic chem it has something to do with the phase change curve between solid, liquid, and gas. The change from hot to frozen is steeper than from cold to frozen so once the hot water begins to lose energy, it gains momentum and loses the energy at a faster rate than the cold water which has less distance to go but also isn't losing the enrgy at the same rate.
 

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Retired Moderator
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6,781 Posts
The molecules in the hot water are actually further apart from each other, thus the cold can penetrate the areas between the molecules easier than cold water whos molecules are more closely packed together hindering any movement of cold between them. Think of water and ice. The ice molecules are so close to each other that they form a molecular bond. Same as air, hot air rises while cold air sinks. Because the molecules are further apart in hot air, it is less dense than cold air.
 

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٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶&#
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Any sources for that by chance? Sounds kinda like my convection-momentum theory.

If i remember correctly from organic chem it has something to do with the phase change curve between solid, liquid, and gas. The change from hot to frozen is steeper than from cold to frozen so once the hot water begins to lose energy, it gains momentum and loses the energy at a faster rate than the cold water which has less distance to go but also isn't losing the enrgy at the same rate.
 

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I tired an experiment with that once. I filled two ice cube trays, one with hot, and one with cold. Tried my best to set them in the freezer in equal and balanced positions. While, I kept regular vigil, I did not notice any faster freezing of the hot water.

What I have noticed from house freeze-ups is a greater number of broken pipes on the hot side supply, now that has always boggled my mind.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I don't think that's how it works Bill. Heat IS the expansion of the electron orbitals around the atoms. The hotter something is, the more photons it emits in the form of long wave IR radiation. If it gets hot enough it starts to emit photons in the visible light spectrum.

The space between atom/molecules is the not a factor I think.

The molecules in the hot water are actually further apart from each other, thus the cold can penetrate the areas between the molecules easier than cold water whos molecules are more closely packed together hindering any movement of cold between them. Think of water and ice. The ice molecules are so close to each other that they form a molecular bond. Same as air, hot air rises while cold air sinks. Because the molecules are further apart in hot air, it is less dense than cold air.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Maybe the ions in the water that have positive solubility constants are traded out for the ones with negative solubility constants in the water heater via the anode in a displacement reaction. Since the hot water now has more ions with a positive solubility constant, they will precipitate out of solution at a higher temperature the the cold water. Since the hot water sample has solids precipitating out sooner, those solids act as seed crystals for ice crystal formation. Maybe the cold water actually gets below freezing faster but does not actually freeze because of the lack of seed crystals (super cooling) and the hot water freezes right at 32F because it DOES have seed crystals floating around in solution?..........
 
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