The Dynamics of Freezing

Facts About Water Freezing

Water, when it freezes, changes from liquid to solid. As the temperature drops, the molecules become less energetic, moving more slowly, until they reach a point at which the molecular structure changes, followed by the transformation into ice, or solid water. Unlike most substances which shrink in volume as they freeze, water expands since ice’s molecular structure takes up more space than water. Conversely, when you heat water, the molecules become more excited until they reach the point where the water vaporizes and becomes steam.

There is a misconception that if water can be kept moving, it won’t freeze. Wrong! Water freezes at 32°F (0°C). Period.

Since the expansion of water as it freezes is a fact of life, what things should we know about this process in order to create effective means of dealing with it in industry? Water that has frozen in piping systems does more than simply clog the system and shut off the flow. Because ice takes up more room than liquid, when freezing occurs in a confined space like a steel pipe, the ice will build up extreme internal pressure which is often enough to break the pipe and its associated valves and fittings.

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