Research

The Evolution of Icicles

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The time-lapse video above shows the growth of icicles of various compositions under laboratory conditions. Many icicles in nature exhibit a rippling effect in their shape, which some theories attribute to an effect of lower surface tension in some  liquids. Here researchers show the icicle growth of three liquids: pure distilled water, and water with two concentrations of dissolved salt. They found that lowering the surface tension of the freezing liquid with non-ionic surfactants (i.e. not salt) did not produce ripples, but that dissolved ionic impurities like salt strongly affected the growth of ripples. They posit that this may be due to constitutional supercooling, in which growth of the solid-liquid interface is destabilized by the preferential concentration of impurities near the interface. (Video credit: A. S. Chen and S. Morris)

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