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Procyan
2010-Jul-11, 06:10 AM
About 45 years ago I found a book on interesting science tidbits in my neighbors attic. Among the many facts, like how fast fingernails grow and stuff like that was something that has bugged me all these years. I know there are some heavy hitters on this forum so here goes:

If you fill a cold cylinder with chilled water, then place a freely moving cold piston into the cylinder and wallop it with a mallet such that the piston is allowed to recoil up out of the cylinder after the impact, the water inside the cylinder will freeze.

Thats it. This has always bugged me because I can't figure out how this sudden input of energy was going to freeze the water. So is this true or was the author all wet?

Tom Servo
2010-Jul-11, 07:31 AM
Hmmm? doesn't make any sense to me.

water can't be compressed so why would the piston rebound upward?

Unless there is a certain amount of air in the cylinder as well.

maybe it was talking about the piston creating a vacuum inside. Water tends to do several things inside a vacuum. It boils and freezes and stays liquid at just the right spot.

Heres some water freezing at its tripple point.

and here

Hmm? I don't know much about it. curious if anyone can confirm this or not.

peterf
2010-Jul-11, 07:47 AM
About 45 years ago I found a book on interesting science tidbits in my neighbors attic. Among the many facts, like how fast fingernails grow and stuff like that was something that has bugged me all these years. I know there are some heavy hitters on this forum so here goes:

If you fill a cold cylinder with chilled water, then place a freely moving cold piston into the cylinder and wallop it with a mallet such that the piston is allowed to recoil up out of the cylinder after the impact, the water inside the cylinder will freeze.

Thats it. This has always bugged me because I can't figure out how this sudden input of energy was going to freeze the water. So is this true or was the author all wet?

i don't know for sure.
i'd say that the sudden impact initiates the crystallization process of the water.
i'd imagine that it would only work in a rather narrow temperature range...

peterf
2010-Jul-11, 08:03 AM
works also by just hitting a very cold bottle with your finger or something else:

Procyan
2010-Jul-11, 08:40 AM
Thanks for the vid link, but the situation is quite different. I am referring to cold water but not super-cooled. Even if it is right on the edge of freezing, let's put it at 1 celcius, it will still need to dump a lot of heat to change phases.

I've heard that water cannot be compressed before. But at some extreme it must be. Like a neutron star. Of course a mallet won't approach that extreme but I wonder if a good solid wack could compress it enough so the recoil causes expansion and cools it to the freezing point? I wish I had the means to test this. Mythbusters you say?

by the way, the look on that young fella's face is ... inspired. Nice to see. Do you think he has a recipe for stink bombs too?

clop
2010-Jul-11, 09:39 AM
Is it anything like those handwarmers you boil and then allow to cool and when you click the metal clicker inside them they go hard and produce heat.

clop

AndreasJ
2010-Jul-11, 09:42 AM
I've heard that water cannot be compressed before. But at some extreme it must be. Like a neutron star. Of course a mallet won't approach that extreme but I wonder if a good solid wack could compress it enough so the recoil causes expansion and cools it to the freezing point? I wish I had the means to test this. Mythbusters you say?

Water is, indeed, weakly compressible, but any cooling from the expansion should only offset an equivalent heating from the compression, so I don't see how that'd help.

Tom Servo
2010-Jul-11, 09:42 AM
I think you might get better answers if you move this question to the science and technology section.

Procyan
2010-Jul-11, 06:19 PM
Clop, no those are super saturated solutions ... sodium acetate I think. The clicker acts as a nucleation source and away it goes. In fact that video looks very much like that.

AndreasJ, yes I see your point. At first it would heat under compression, then cool as it expanded back to original volume. the key would be if it rebounded enough to cool further before collapsing back to original volume. I suppose it could snap freeze into its expanded solid phase, unique to water.

I'm not arguing for this, just trying to explore feasibility.

Tom, how does one move a thread? I see that you are right, Science and Tech would be a better fit.

PetersCreek
2010-Jul-12, 01:55 AM
So moved.

mr obvious
2010-Jul-12, 03:00 AM
It might help if you could remember more details about the experiment. You suggest the water is at near freezing, but above, say 1C. What are the temperatures of the cylinder and piston? Once you hit the piston, it rebounds, the water freezes into what? Do you get a hollow cylinder of ice? Slush? Does the piston have to rebound entirely out of the container?

It does sound like Tom's explanation that the rising cylinder creates a partial vacuum underneath it, leading to phase changes based on that, is plausible. If so, you might get the same effect without impact, by immersing the cylinder and then suddenly yanking it straight out.

Any chance you remember what the book was called or who wrote it?

mugaliens
2010-Jul-12, 07:54 AM
You say the supercooling of water wasn't a factor, so ok. Let's suppose for a minute, however, that it was a factor. Water can be supercooled to its crystal homogeneous nucleation tempt, around -42 deg C (-43.6 deg F). Assuming the cylinder is long and slender, but possessing some serious tensil strength, the resulting expansion could certainly drive the piston with great force.

It's not very efficient for producing power, however.

Procyan
2010-Jul-12, 09:17 AM
I wish I could remember the title and author. I would love to revisit that book. The instructions were to use cold, but not freezing water and similarly chilled gear. It was important to allow the piston to freely recoil up and out of the cylinder. I don't know if the result was to be slush or a solid block. To me any solid at all would be a marvel.

I am secretly hoping that some old campaigner will chime in ... " Quite so old man, thats how we made ice for our gordons and tonix during the Burmese Days."

Now that I've given voice to it, I suppose I'll have to give it a try won't I ... PSB

oh right, thanks for moving this to the correct section PetersCreek

trinitree88
2010-Jul-12, 04:21 PM
PROCYAN. snipppet
I am secretly hoping that some old campaigner will chime in ... " Quite so old man, thats how we made ice for our gordons and tonix during the Burmese Days."

SNIPPET
I don't think it can be accomplished without supercooling the water first since you also have the heat of fusion to deal with with just cool/cold water ....however, ...............in the Burmese days, during WW2 Pappy Boyington and the Black sheep used to take the machine guns out of the wings of the Flying Tigers, fill up the ports with warm beer, fly them up to ~ 18,000 feet/dive bomb the base, land and take out a church key for a few cold brews. When the brass found out that we'd be shooting bottle caps at Japs, they weren't too thrilled with Pappy's idea.

SEE:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baa_Baa_Black_Sheep_(TV_series)

loktky
2010-Jul-12, 04:51 PM
A diagram would be helpful as well.

dgh64
2010-Jul-12, 06:20 PM
Just theorizing here, but...

Water reaches its highest density at about 4 Celcius, correct? It contracts as it cools from room temp, but at 4 degrees the molecules start trying to crystalize and it'll expand again on its way to becoming ice, right? So, if your water is only 1 degree, then the molecules are already trying pretty hard to crystalize. And since the 4 to 0 transition for water is the opposite of what you'd think (colder = expansion, warmer = contraction) then what would the thermal effect of the impact be? I need to go learn some thermodynamics...

Solfe
2010-Jul-12, 06:51 PM
Could the cylinder length have something to do with the experiment?
Suppose it isn't the impact that freezes the water, but the recoil. As the piston rises in the cylinder, a vacuum is formed and the temperature goes low enough to freeze the water?

Solfe

dgavin
2010-Jul-12, 07:02 PM
I think i have heard of this type of freezing activity, but in relation to military submarines. In extreamely cold water (near freezing like at the artice) if the submarine attempts a sudden reverse of direction, the Cavitation of the water around the props will cause the water to rush into the cavitated space, cooling it enough to cause ice buildup around the prop.

That experiment might be related to cavitation freezing, if the rebound is fast enough to cause cavitation it might be what is causing the freezing effect?

dgh64
2010-Jul-13, 01:51 AM
Could the cylinder length have something to do with the experiment?
Suppose it isn't the impact that freezes the water, but the recoil. As the piston rises in the cylinder, a vacuum is formed and the temperature goes low enough to freeze the water?

Solfe

I don't see how the recoiling piston could even remove as much heat as it first generated by the initial compression. That'd be like dropping a ball and having it bounce higher than you dropped it. That doesn't even happen in a universe without entropy.

aastrotech
2010-Jul-13, 02:15 AM

The water and the surrounding cylinder is very near but above freezing. Hitting the water compresses it. Compression raises its temp slightly. That slightly higher temp is absorbed by the still cooler uncompressed cylinder. The piston then rises decompressing the water. The temp falls below freezing and the water freezes.

Though probably only momentarily.

Ara Pacis
2010-Jul-16, 05:17 AM
You're all talking about pressure, but would the effect of over-pressure, a shock wave, make a difference?

Procyan
2010-Jul-16, 08:59 AM
Thanks to all of you for taking this on. I feared relegation to ATM!

I asked my neighbor who has a machine shop (sigh) to make the piston/cylinder complete with a small hole for a thermocouple. It will be about 20 mm in diameter and 100 deep. Just about the right size to take out my corpus callosum and then some!

You know, there is every chance that up in the attic of a 150 year old house in the middle of Canal Street in Big Flats New York there lies a mouldering "Book of Facts". Its there next to the short wave set, by an old trunk that contains a bullet ridden Japanese flag, a sword and a very well deserved medal. May you yet be well Arthur.

Procyan
2010-Jul-16, 09:01 AM
Yes, I do believe if it has any chance of reality, it will have to do with the shock wave and its recoil. I think the cylinder should be massive compared to the volume.

Antice
2010-Jul-16, 04:02 PM
hmm.. looking at the phase diagram of water. it is possible to use pure pressure to form ice. but i doubt that is what is happening here.
My pet theory is that when you compress the water it heats up to the point where a significant fraction of it turns into steam. it will also heat up the plunger and container. a small but significant amount of heat will be transfered away from the now hot water/steam. the steam pushes the plunger back out violently since the phase change causes a sharp increase in pressure. when the plunger leaves the temperature of the water steam drops back to where it was sans the heat lost to the environment while it was compressed by the plunger. if the water was at the right temperature (say 1 to 4 deg C) then it may now freeze.

This principle is mostly the same as what makes the firepiston work. compression causes air to heat up and ignite a piece of tinder. except that in the ice piston you want the heat to be transfered to the container wall and conducted away instead of being transfered to something flamable.

dgh64
2010-Jul-17, 08:42 PM
My pet theory is that when you compress the water it heats up to the point where a significant fraction of it turns into steam.

Um, even if the water was 99.9 Celcius, you can't boil it by compression... compression raises the BP, a lot more than it generates heat...

mycket
2011-Jan-12, 03:12 AM
I know this post is way after the original ones, but I read that same book, and it has always bugged me too.

It was a "Ripley's Believe it or Not" book or the like. I found a link to a scan of the narrative I believe you were thinking of.

http://i26.tinypic.com/ipt8ba.gif

I'm curious as to whether it is feasible or not as well.

neilzero
2011-Jan-12, 03:58 AM
Water compresses less than most substances, but extreme pressure compresses it to higher density forms of ice. When the pressure stops quickly the solid form of water becomes liquid explosively, so the book is mostly wrong about ice. Neil

Procyan
2011-Jan-29, 02:51 PM
Oh my goodness, thank you mycket for releasing me from the murk and mist. That is the illustration exactly. So it was Ripley's, well I must say that what I was inclined to believe as a young boy I tend to dismiss as a seasoned time traveler!

But it is summer and I have some time...all the time in the world.

tashirosgt
2011-Mar-08, 05:20 PM
"Real" water would have impurities such as air in it. When a shock causes a soda to fizz, is there any loss of energy in the liquid? Did the liquid need energy to "trap" the gas?

HenrikOlsen
2011-Mar-08, 06:27 PM
There's no loss of energy, but a phase-change can cause energy to switch from one form to another, e.g. from potential energy in the form of binding energy to kinetic energy in the form of heat.

tashirosgt
2011-Mar-08, 07:19 PM
Yes, there would be no net loss of energy. In fact, the applied shock should provide a gain in energy. That still leaves the question of whether the two components (gas and water) divide the total energy between them differently if the gas comes out of solution with no change in the volume of the container.

HenrikOlsen
2011-Mar-08, 07:26 PM
Remember that the water's very close to being non-compressible, so the impact and resulting pressure increase won't increase the temperature significantly, but will raise the freezing point which can trigger freezing if it's close enough, resulting in a volume increase which pushes the piston, transferring energy to it.

LightningRose
2011-Apr-04, 04:15 PM
First, here's a permanent link to an image of the relevant Ripley illustration:
http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2011/04/01/believe-it-or-not/

The key point is that there must be air inside the cylinder, and Boyle's Law states that if we compress a gas, it's temperature will increase, and if a gas is allowed to expand, it's temperature will decrease. This is the basic principle behind modern mechanical refrigeration.

Therefore, if it works, this is how:

Kinetic energy from the hammer blow is converted into thermal energy by compressing the air inside the cylinder and heating said air. The heat in the air is absorbed by the cylinder, the piston, and (hopefully not too much) the water.

As the air inside the cylinder is allowed to expand it cools, drawing heat out of the cylinder, the piston, and the water. If the air draws enough heat out of the water, it will freeze.

The key to this working would be that most of the heat generated by compressing the gas is transferred into the cylinder and piston. I think this will work with the right combination of iron or aluminum cylinder and steel or aluminum piston.

Procyan
2011-Apr-08, 02:12 AM
Once again I am indebted to you for that link. Hard to explain the feeling, I clearly remember the part about the cricket "thermometer" and trying to count chirps in the summer evening. I was a young scientist then. Rockets, ant farms, grandad's B&L microscope...

If I crawl into a cylinder would someone please do the honours? I'm sure I'd emerge renewed and...solid!

Ok, I'm back now...My neighbor has a lathe and promised to make the apparatus for me when he has some time. we are entering winter so the temperatures will be in our favour. I will report results, such as they are.

Thanks for indulgence, it is a curious concept.

erikmort
2011-Aug-06, 02:34 AM
Just like our original poster, I had been searching casually over the years for the answer to this mystery of science. As a boy, of 10 or so, growing up in Washington State, USA, I had witnessed this remarkable phenomenon being demonstrated by a teacher at a local middle school science fair. I remember being so fascinated that my mother had to literally drag me away from the magic show. I never forgot to find the answer to this minor miracle when I "grew up."

Over the years, by thought experiment, I did finally figure out that decompression was at work here, but it is very nice to see that Ripley's was the original source. One tidbit I've gleaned from the Ripley's illustration is the importance of the trapped air in creating the right compression and atmosphere.

Those curious may find it interesting to know that the demonstrator drove a steel rod piston (likely hardened) into a cylinder made from a stump-like section of a tree bole. He had drilled a hole through-and-through axially. As I recall, he stoppered the hole at bottom with a lag bolt. He would pour his water from a pitcher into the hole, top it with a 1/2"-3/4" rod (a little murky after 35 years) -- and drive it with a 4 pound sledge. He'd kick the billet of wood over like a lumberjack and wrench the plug loose, ramrod with piston and viola out came a cylindrical plug of ice!

Glasses and Gordon's, gentlemen!

Anas
2016-Jun-07, 04:40 PM

Solfe
2016-Jun-09, 03:36 AM
No real update from me. I did find a nice video of a guy freezing water by tapping on the side of the bottle. He had it all worked out so that many bottles were in the freezer for hours and then he tapped several of them. Finally one froze when touched. I would think he simply got them supercooled and without video editing, it would be rather boring to watch.

Personally, I am convinced that it is a trick of pressure, temperature and misusing consumer devices. I think that the piston and cylinder are somewhat leaky, the stroke length of the piston comes into play along with the initial temperature of the water and device. If you can mess with the piston, rod and water temperature first, the experiment is rather contrived to make ice. I mean, hammer swings aren't a unit of energy because the force can be whatever you want, and you want what works. You could probably figure out how to make the trick work, then "scale up" the swing to look as powerful as you like.

I have one of those soda makers and it happily converts water to ice if you apply too much CO2. My kids like to do that. The device is powered by a tiny CO2 tank, about a 1 liter. I also keep the bottles and water in the fridge before. It's a case of actual temperature being more important than pressure, because the pressure change isn't all that impressive. I'm just putting fizz in water, not building a rocket*.

*Edit - My kids like the rocket effect, but when you do that the bottle simply pops off and sticky soda goes all over the counter. If anything, I've learned to not keep the paper towels near the pop machine because wet and sticky paper towels don't help you clean up pop.

John Mendenhall
2016-Jun-09, 06:27 AM
Fascinating. Thanks to all. Now if i can find a cylinder and a piston , , ,

profloater
2016-Jun-09, 10:49 AM
just seen this thread. I think it all too fast for heat in out scenario. As the water cools air should come out but it will super saturate. So here is what I think happens.
The water is incompressible compared with air and the cylinder. Hit and a shock wave travels through the water, this wave has high and low pressure associations, and the cylinder expands. That's where the energy to rebound comes from, the cyclinder springs back, the water efficiently pushes the piston. The negative pressure releases the supersaturated air as bubbles which instantly expand on rebound cooling the water the extra degree and receiving the latent heat, at least temporarily. So it is a cavitation effect.

Anas
2016-Jun-10, 02:03 AM
Well, I did some research folks - and what has come up is truly astounding. Now unless I have duped myself in interpreting this data, I believe that the whole phenomena itself somehow defies what the phase diagram for water is saying, of course, given the anecdotes and what Ripley is saying is true.

If you go to this link here, you will find the phase diagram for water:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase_diagram#/media/File:Phase_diagram_of_water.svg

Now, suppose that the interval of the working temperature at hand is between 0-10 degrees celsius (the usual broad range drinking water temperatures find itself in). If you look closely on the phase diagram, you will find that this puts us at a necessary pressure of approximately 1 GPa that is needed in order for us to operate at the mentioned temperature range and still manage to change the liquid water into ice. Looking for a scale that gives tangible meaning to what particular orders of magnitude of pressure translate too in this link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orders_of_magnitude_%28pressure%29

Let me just list to you the things mentioned that are 1 GPa and a bit below:

1 GPa Extremely high-pressure chemical reactors (10 kbar)
240–620 MPa Water pressure used in a water jet cutter
400 MPa Chamber pressure of late 1910s .50 Browning machine gun discharge
110 MPa Pressure at bottom of Mariana Trench, about 11 km below ocean surface

Notice anything weird? Just ask yourself one simple question. Can anyone with a rather heavy hammer actually generate pressures or forces that are equivalent to some of these things mentioned above? I don't believe so at all. So that leaves us with three options..

1) There is an anomalous phenomena at work here that science is not aware of yet
2) A Human with a "rather heavy hammer" (one of our posters mentioned 4 Lb sledge hammer being used) can generate 1 GPa pressure
3) I'm high as a kite off of the possibility of this idea and have misinterpreted not only the data, but the horizon of my stupidity whenever I get all giddy over something

Let me know what you think from the link folks,

Nothing but love from my end <3

profloater
2016-Jun-13, 11:56 AM
Of course you can generate a GPa with an impact. Impacts are limited only by the shock wave energy going through elastic materials otherwise they would be infinite. In experimental conditions a bullet striking the edge of a metal plate can cause a chunk of material at the far edge to break out. The shockwave bounces at that far edge and the rebound is enough to cause a fracture.

In another fancy experiment you can drill a hole through metal with a water drop and a hammer.

If the container were to be cast iron instead of stainless steel, you could easily fracture the cast iron by hitting the water column. The use of the piston sets the experiment to control the shockwave to a pressure wave that hits the container which as said before is much more elastic than the water. The water spreads the energy at the speed of sound and the container expands then contracts at its resonant frequency plus higher shock wave frequencies. The water pressure oscillates. The air cavitates.

It is interesting to speculate how much heat energy is involved in the cavitation of the air bubbles, you would not expect enough to freeze all the water and that amount cannot be more than the impact energy but the anomolous expansion below 4 C may have something to do with that. The implied expansion as the pressure oscillation blows the piston out may cause a change of state ahead of the heat exchange required. That implies "hot ice" as a metastable state equivalent to supercooled water.

So I am hypothesising a change of state due to sudden low pressure and simultaneous expansion due to air bubbles leaving some hot ice around the bubbles and supercooled water trapped around the ice bubbles.

profloater
2016-Jun-13, 12:12 PM
I found this in "water structure and science", about anomolies, it may help, the transition to ice 1 crystal requires little energy:

Another anomaly is found as the ices change their crystalline phase. Thus there are decreases in volume when ice Ih changes to ice II (ΔV = 3.92 cm3 mol-1), ice II changes to ice V (ΔV = 0.7 cm3 mol-1), ice V changes to ice VI (ΔV = 0.7 cm3 mol-1), and ice VI changes to ice VII (ΔV = 1.05 cm3 mol-1) but in all cases this is associated with increases in internal lattice energy (79 J mol-1, 1.45 kJ mol-1, 423 J mol-1, 2.3 kJ mol-1 respectively). Normally an increase in density is expected to increase the interaction between the molecules and make the internal energy more negative. These phenomena are primarily due to the changes in the hydrogen bonding strength caused by the molecular rearrangement.

profloater
2016-Jun-13, 12:26 PM
Taking that further, it may not need air at all. We think of tension in liquids as impossible but when you suddenly set up a pressure oscillation what happens? If you take water to zero pressure it should boil, taking energy from surroundings but impacts are fast. We could speculate a tension stress in the water waiting for cavitation. The water tries to boil but the expansion implied also has the change of state "option" Any cavitating bubble of water vapour will be associated with a surrounding bubble of ice. The ice donates energy to the bubble. This would actually occur in a wave through the water, too fast to see, it would seem instantaneous.