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Old 11-05-2010, 01:06 PM
dolphinboy dolphinboy is offline
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Bigfork, Montana
Posts: 4,229
Why do ice cubes readilly stick to other ice cubes?

I tried googling but I couldn't find a satisfactory answer I could understand. When I dispense ice cubes into a glass from my refrigerator's ice maker they are loose and separate, but if I just leave them there in the glass for a few seconds they will start sticking together so strongly that it's nearly impossible to separate them... even after I add whatever liquid I was planning to drink.

I live in Montana where the humidity is relatively low compared to where I used to live in California if that matters. I didn't seem to notice it as much before I moved here, but that was a different refrigerator so maybe that's the reason.

So is there something special about my ice now that makes this more prevalent? The source of my water now is from a well and it goes through a filter in the refrigerator before being made into ice... and yes, I need a hobby.

Last edited by dolphinboy; 11-05-2010 at 01:07 PM.
Old 11-05-2010, 01:14 PM
Bosstone Bosstone is offline
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 15,368
I may have some of the details wrong, but they actually refreeze. Side of the ice cube touches the warmer air or liquid, the ice cube gets slick, presses up against another ice cube, gets cold again, and the watery sides that mixed together freeze together. It's the same principle that allows a welder to use a torch to bind two pieces of metal together.

There's an old, old experiment where you can prop an ice cube up, lay down a piece of fishing line across the top, weigh down the ends of the line with pencils or something similar, and verrrrrry slowly the line will slide through the cube, cutting as it goes with the cube refreezing into one solid piece back over it.

Last edited by Bosstone; 11-05-2010 at 01:14 PM.
Old 11-05-2010, 02:10 PM
Tastes of Chocolate Tastes of Chocolate is offline
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: slightly north of center
Posts: 4,506
It's the same thing that happens when you try to pick up an ice cube when your hands are wet. With wet hands, the water on your hand is being frozen by the ice cube. With 2 ice cubes, small amounts of melted ice (water) on the surface of the ice cubes are refreezing, this time binding 2 or more chunks of ice together.
Old 11-05-2010, 02:54 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 8,867
It's probably a result of a different refrigerator because the temperature of the ice cubes is the key.

Ice cubes at exactly the freezing point don't stick together, while those below freezing do (or at least, might). If two ice cubes start off at 20 F and are close enough together, they can cool down water in between them, causing it to freeze until the whole system settles out at 32 F. Once the ice cubes are warmed up to 32, they stop sticking and just slowly melt.

You can also test this by continually stirring, which will prevent the ice cubes from sticking. They need that small gap of water between cubes to be relatively stable for long enough to freeze it.
Old 11-05-2010, 09:55 PM
Cheshire Human Cheshire Human is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: NY, USA
Posts: 4,545
Originally Posted by dolphinboy View Post
... and yes, I need a hobby.
Use Vodka and Orange Juice in the glass with the ice cubes. That's all the hobby you need to kill hours every day.

But seriously, Ice evaporates, and water vapor in the atmosphere can recondense on ice cubes, so at the surface, where two cubes are in contact, you actually have a bit of Ice evaporating and reforming continuously. This will cause the cubes to sort of "grow" together enough to make them stick.


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