London, March 26 (ANI): In a new research, scientists have suggested that hot water may sometimes freeze faster than cold because of random impurities in the water.
Fast-freezing of hot water is known as the Mpemba effect, after a Tanzanian schoolboy called Erasto Mpemba.
Physicists have come up with several possible explanations, including faster evaporation reducing the volume of hot water, a layer of frost insulating the cooler water, and differing concentration of solutes.
But the answer has been very hard to pin down because the effect is unreliable - cold water is just as likely to freeze faster.
According to a report in New Scientist, James Brownridge, who is radiation safety officer for the State University of New York at Binghamton, believes that this randomness is crucial.
Over the past 10 years, he has carried out hundreds of experiments on the Mpemba effect in his spare time, and has evidence that the effect is based on the shifty phenomenon of supercooling.
"Water hardly ever freezes at 0 degree Celsius. It usually supercools, and only begins freezing at a lower temperature," said Brownridge.
The freezing point depends on impurities in the water which seed the formation of ice crystals.
Typically, water may contain several types of impurity, from dust particles to dissolved salts and bacteria, each of which triggers freezing at a characteristic temperature.
The impurity with the highest nucleation temperature determines the temperature at which the water freezes.
Brownridge starts with two samples of water at the same temperature - say, tap water at 20 degrees C - in covered test tubes and cools them in a freezer.
One will freeze first, presumably because its random mix of impurities give it a higher freezing point.
If the difference is large enough, the Mpemba effect will appear.
Brownridge selects the sample with the higher natural freezing temperature to heat to 80 degrees C, warming the other to only room temperature, then puts the test tubes back in the freezer.
"The hot water will always freeze faster than the cold water if its freezing point is at least 5 degrees C higher," Brownridge said.
The bigger the temperature difference between an object and its surroundings, the faster it cools.
So, the hot sample will do most of its cooling very quickly, helping it to reach its own freezing point of -2 degrees C, say, before the cooler water gets to its freezing point of -7 degrees C. (ANI)