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"Why Does Ice Float?"

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

Simply Science 8

Ice is solid water and floats because it is less dense than liquid water.

Penguins on ice

Water molecules contain two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, bonded together to form a V-shaped molecule. These molecules are attracted to each other through hydrogen bonding, which involves the positive hydrogen end of one molecule being attracted to the negative oxygen end of another.

liquid water structure

When water freezes and turns into ice, the hydrogen bonds arrange themselves in a hexagonal lattice structure. This arrangement causes water molecules to spread out and form a crystal lattice with relatively large spaces between them. These spaces create a less dense structure than the liquid water molecules, where they are more closely packed.

ice structure

As a result, the density of ice is about 0.92 grams per cubic centimetre (g/cm³), whereas the density of liquid water is approximately 1.00 g/cm³. Because ice is less dense, it floats on top of liquid water.

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