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European Pupils

Magazine
Gabriele Viglianisi
Liceo Boggio Lera, Catania, Italy
vigliag@gmail.com

Here you are an interesting update to Mpemba Effect


EPMagazine 3, 2003

It’s True: Hot Water Really Can


Freeze Faster Than Cold Water*
*But only if you’re a clever physicist and you bend the rule

In May 2010, James Brownridge of New York State University published the results of a very inter-
esting study about the Mpemba effect, which we wrote about (in an article which, sadly, turned out to be a
plagiarism) in EPMagazine 3, 2003.
The Mpemba effect holds that, under some circumstances, hot water can freeze before cold water. This
effect proved to be very difficult to study, due to the large number of variables and phenomena implied in
water freezing and loss of heat. Indeed, despite the effect can be observed in any freezer, its causes and the
conditions at which it appears are still not clear.
Brownridge’s is probably the first study to give clear results by now, yet it is unlikely to put an end to the
dilemma. The study consists in a series of experiments that test several of the proposed causes of the
Mpemba effect. The latest and most important experiment clearly showed that a sample of hot water can
really freeze sooner than a sample of cold water, but only if the two samples have different features.

In fact, the sample of hot water was


distilled, while the sample of cold water
was taken from the tap. Because of its im-
purities, the latter has a lower freezing
point, meaning that it has to reach a lower
temperature in order to start freezing. For
this reason, Brownridge's experiments do
not prove the Mpemba effect, which has
been claimed to happen with two samples
of water that differ only in temperature.
Here Brownridge's conclusions are
reported:
Hot water will freeze before cooler
water only when the cooler water su-
percools, and then, only if the nuclea-
tion temperature of the cooler water is
several degrees lower than that of the
hot water. Heating water may lower,
raise or not change the spontaneous
Some ice cubes freezing temperature.

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European Pupils
Magazine
Effect Mpemba

In other words, if a sample of water freezes at a


higher temperature because of its impurities, it can
freeze in less time than colder water with a lower
freezing point. This is impressive, because a 5 °C dif-
ference in freezing point can be enough for a sample
of water to overcome, in the race for freezing, a much
cooler sample.
Though this experiment cannot prove the Mpemba
effect, it suggests that random impurities in water can
raise its freezing point and thus they may have an im-
portant role in determining the time it takes to freeze.
In spite of these results, however, the causes deter-
mining the Mpemba effect for two identical samples
may be different. Plenty of explanations for the
Mpemba effect have been proposed, many of which
were not taken in consideration by Brownridge be-
cause of very controlled conditions of his experiment.
This is, however, what makes Brownridge’s experiment so meaningful, as he was able to get clear
result by concentrating on a single variable at time.
Brownridge’s experiments, along with other sig-
nificant and well-designed studies, can make us hope
well for further studies to explain the Mpemba effect
once for all.

Bibliography
M. Jeng, Hot water can freeze faster than cold?!? -
http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0512262
L. Sanders, You really can freeze hot water faster than
cold, ScienceNews - http://tinyurl.com/33gtcbg
http://arxiv.org/abs/1003.3185
The Random Roots of Freezing, New Scientist 27 March
2010
www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/03/icy-hot/
http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/General/
hot_water.html
EPMagazine, 1-2004

Iconography
www.wired.com/images_blogs/wiredscience/2010/03/
icy_hot.jpg
www.killingtime.com/Pegu/wp-content/
uploads/2010/03/ice_cubes-450x450.jpg
http://epmirrorsite.xoom.it/II year_file/3rd issue_file/
General/22 Plagio.html
EPMagazine 1-2004

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