General Question

asmonet's avatar

Why are my ice cubes such weirdos?

Asked by asmonet (21365points) December 10th, 2008

I use a lot of ice. An embarassing amount really so I have a lot of ice trays in the freezer at any given time. Occasionally, I’ll open up the fridge and one or two cubes has what looks like an icy spike of doom coming out of it. I thought for a second maybe the fan in the freezer might have caused it but if that was case there would be more cubes with the same spike. And there really isn’t that much movement in the freezer anyway. It isn’t my freezer because it’s happened in two separate refrigerators now that I’ve noticed. So, what’s up?

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22 Answers

adri027's avatar

Sounds like they’re starting to turn on you…

asmonet's avatar

Hold me, I’m frightened…

arnbev959's avatar

Where on the cube are the spikes?

adri027's avatar

Hold me now, warm my heart
stay with me, let loving start.

asmonet's avatar

On the top. Usually they are in the middle, leaning in random directions at varying angles. And the weird thing is it sometimes is a spike with a rounded top. Like an upside down icicle with a blob on the end. Freak cubes.

jessturtle23's avatar

That’s just where you stacked some trays and water dripped and froze. I am also one of the few without an icemaker. I just buy it by the bag now.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Jess, I’ve had that happen when they weren’t stacked. I only freeze one tray at the time.

I think it has to do with the fact that ice expands as it freezes. Sometimes it happens at weird angles…

I think the spikey cubes are in compartments that you filled with more water than other ones. Could that be it, asmonet?

asmonet's avatar

@jess: Nope, the way my freezer is set up my trays are almost never near each other.

@chica: Sometimes. Other times no, I do think it’s more common on the bigger cubes. Good thought though, I’ll look for that next time I grab some.

jessturtle23's avatar


arnbev959's avatar

Theory # 1:
You know how if you take a balloon and rub it against the sofa or your head and get it all staticy and then turn on the faucet just a bit so there’s a thin stream of water coming out and then hold the balloon near the stream of water the balloon will actually push the stream of water over a little? Well, maybe there’s a bit of static electricity inside your frizzer freezer on the bottom that’s pushing through the tray, and making the little icicle on top.

Theory #2:
Right when the water is freezing, (it will first freeze on the top, and on the edges, moving toward the center,) something startles the tray. Maybe someone jumps on the floor above, or maybe you just knock against the freezer as you’re passing by, which causes a small drop of water to shoot up through the part of the top layer of ice that hasn’t yet frozen, and, since it’s such a small amount of water, and because it’s already so cold, it freezes before it can make it’s way back down below the surface.

Theory # 3:
What happens when you fill up a pot of water from the tap? Aren’t there always a few tiny air bubbles that get stuck to the surface of the pot under water? Those form in the ice trays when you fill them up as well. As the tray it sitting in the freezer, those bubbles gradually start to come together, and form at the surface. When the water freezes, the air bubble in the center forms the icicle.

Theory # 4:
When the water is in the tray, the water level is higher on the sides of each ice thingy, and lower at the meniscus, where the spike later forms. But as the water freezes, what happens to the water molecules? They become rigid, and push against the sides of the ice tray thingies, and expand. So what happens to the water level? The middle, due to the pressure on the sides of the thingy, actually push the center of the water level up, so that at the very center of the cube a spike forms.

jessturtle23's avatar

Wow Pete. You are a pothead. Must be some good shit :)

asmonet's avatar

Pete, you’re a genius. Also, lurve for meniscus.

A few of your points occurred to me. Thanks for the thought you put into my silly little question.

I wish a sixth grade science teacher would show up and school us. This has been bothering me for so long. I might just get fed up and rig a time lapse camera in there. I’m just bored enough to do it.

Nimis's avatar

I want some of whatever Pete is smoking.

augustlan's avatar

I love that this is what bothers you! When you can, get a fridge with an ice maker. You will be beyond thrilled!

shilolo's avatar

You are in luck. Some awesome nerds at Cal Tech solved this issue for you. Basically, “the density change during solidification forces supercooled water up through a hollow ice tube, where it freezes around the rim to lengthen the tube.”

Allie's avatar

I want to see what these look like..

shilolo's avatar

Allie, ask, and ye shall receive. This site also has a “how-to” section to improve ice spike formation. Go to town…

Allie's avatar

Yay! Thanks, lolo.. =]

susanc's avatar

Wish we could give lurve for a whole thread. This made me laugh SO MUCH.

Knotmyday's avatar

Agreed. :^D My day has brightened considerably.

asmonet's avatar

Haha, glad to have been a part of it guys. I like how th people who solved it are super nerds at caltech.

@aug: You’d be surprised how fixated I can get on things other people never seem to notice.

@shi: You sir, are amazing.

augustlan's avatar

I miss this thread.

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