Exploring Water


Here is an experiment that even the professionals at AstroCamp will not dare to perform. Water can become superheated in a closed system, like that in a microwave, and become extremely dangerous. Superheated water is liquid water under pressure at temperatures between the usual boiling point, 100 °C, and the critical temperature, 374 °C.


Superheated water can be stable because the liquid water is in equilibrium with the vapor. However, if water becomes superheated due to this equilibrium and a lack of bubbles or impurities, then it will all of a sudden boil if there is a change in the system. This could be a simple as jostling the liquid, introducing something like a spoon, tea bag, or even a tiny piece of dust!

water 1

Smooth containers do not have bubbles of air clinging to their sides. Rough or scratched containers may hold microscopic bubbles in their cracks, becoming nuclei for boiling. These nuclei provide a source for the water to release heat and energy in a safe way. But with a smooth container, when a nuclei is added, the superheated water will explode!

Written by: Mimi Garai


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