Freezing Drops

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A water droplet deposited on a cold surface freezes from the bottom up. As anyone who has made ice cubes knows, water expands when it freezes. But watch the outline of the drop carefully. The drop isn’t expanding radially outward while it freezes. Instead the remaining liquid part of the drop forms what’s known as a spherical cap, a shape like the sliced-off top of a sphere. Surface tension creates that spherical shape, but the water still has to expand when it freezes. The result? The last bit of the drop freezes into a point! This means that surface tension maintains the drop’s spherical shape, for the most part, and all the expansion the water does takes place vertically. (Video credit: D. Lohse et al.)

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