Instant Ice Science Experiment

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This science experiment is an exciting experiment to show your child water transforming from liquid to a solid instantaneously!

The Instant Ice experiment shows the transformation from liquid to solid in an instant! When purified water is supercooled (cooled below freezing point), it will instantly turn from a liquid to a solid when it is disturbed. This could be by a jolt to the container or just adding an ice cube to it.

To make it more exciting, your child can create fun ice sculptures while pouring the supercooled water. Since it only takes a few items that you likely have on hand, this is an easy at-home experiment.

Instant Ice Experiment Hero image

How to make the Instant Ice experiment

Supplies you will need

For the Instant Ice experiment, you’ll need:

  • Bottles of purified water
  • A freezer with space to lay bottles flat

Before you start

I found that water bottles with harder plastic tended to be easier to handle than softer plastic. I used Dasani water bottles and had a much easier time than with a softer plastic bottle like Zephyrhills.

Instructions

Here is how to do the Instant Ice experiment with your toddler:

Step 1: Place your water bottle(s) in the freezer on their side

I wanted to have a few water bottles in the freezer, just in case I accidentally messed up on the experiment.

It varies for everyone, but your water bottles will likely need at least 1.5 hours to get ready, likely more. Mine needed about 2.5 hours.

If, by 1.5 hours, your water bottles are not ready, check back every 15-20 minutes.

Optional (but encouraged): I also added a water bottle with tap water in it as a control. Once the tap water bottle froze and the purified water was still liquid, I knew it was ready to go.

Step 2: Carefully open the water bottle

Step 2 of Instant Ice experiment

Remember how I mentioned that a simple jolt could ignite the freeze? Since you have to hold the bottle in order to unscrew the cap, you will want to be careful about the amount of pressure you place on the bottle.

Step 3: Pour the supercooled water into the empty container

Step 3 of Instant Ice experiment

You won’t have to be as careful with this step.

Step 4: Start the freeze!

Step 4 of Instant Ice experiment

Take a piece of ice and simply touch it to the surface of the supercooled water. You won’t have to hold it for long: it should instantly activate the freeze and you will be able to see the water transform to ice!

The ice cube you added will sit on top at this point.

Get your preschooler involved: Let your child touch the ice cube to the top of the water and ignite the freeze. They will feel like they have superpowers!

Step 5: Add water to create ice sculptures

Step 5 of Instant Ice experiment

You can do this in either container (the newly-formed ice or the container with ice cubes).

Slowly pour the water out of the water bottle and into these containers to create fun ice sculptures!

Get your preschooler involved: Allow your child free reign over the ice sculptures. Let them get creative! There’s no right or wrong with this step.

Here’s a quick video of creating ice sculptures:

Video creating ice sculptures in Instant Ice experiment

The science behind the Instant Ice science experiment

The Instant Ice experiment showcases the transformation from a liquid to a solid in an instant.

How it works

This experiment studies supercooled water, which is when the water’s temperature falls below freezing but does not actually freeze.

When water is very pure, it is difficult for ice crystals to form because they need what is called a “nucleation point” (the first step in the formation of a new thermodynamic phase) to begin freezing.

When supercooled water is disturbed (by hitting it or introducing a piece of ice, like in our experiment), it instantly turns to ice!

More chemistry experiments to try out with your child

FAQ about the Instant Ice Experiment

Does the plastic bottle have to be a harder or softer plastic?

In my opinion, plastic bottles with harder plastic allow you to handle them easier in their supercooled state than a softer plastic bottle. When I used a softer plastic bottle, I initiated the freeze accidentally every time.

Can you make instant ice with tap water?

For this experiment, it is not recommended to use regular tap water. Tap water holds contaminants that could be enough for a nucleation point, which would trigger the freeze when the water reaches the freezing point. By using purified water, you have no contaminants, which will allow your water to stay a liquid well under freezing temperatures.

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