Instant Ice – Super Cold Water Turns to Ice Before Your Eyes

We recently came across this video by‘s reader Phil Sabine making its rounds on the Internet. In the video, Sabine takes a cold bottle of water, turns it upside down and then taps the bottom. The water instantly begins freezing from the bottom down to the top.

Is it magic? A slight of hand? Or did he switch the liquid in the bottle to something other than water?

The answer to all of the questions is no, there is no trick. The solution lies in the science behind the freezing temperature of water and how ice crystals form. This is also referred to as Supercooled Water.

Everyone knows the freezing temperature of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius. When this temperature is reached, the water molecules freeze by forming ice crystals. It’s easier for the water molecules to turn to ice on top of already formed crystals.  Ice crystals build on existing ice crystals to eventually freeze the entire bottle of water.

What starts the freezing ice crystal process? 

The process of starting the ice crystals is called “nucleation.” This starts from an impurity or scratch or piece of dust on the container holding the water. In this case, the water bottle. One ice crystal attaches to the imperfection, and the others grow on top.

What if the water bottle does not have an imperfection or impurity? Nucleation cannot begin, and the water stays in its liquid state. Even in temperatures below the freezing point. This state is called “metastable.” The water stays liquid until something kicks off the nucleation process.

In the SooCool video, Phil turns the bottle upside down and smacks it. This is enough to start the ice crystals to form and build on top of each other as they freeze down the bottle.

The water in the bottle isn’t frozen solid, but more slushy.

For an experiment, take a case of water and place it in the freezer. Keep all of the bottles in the same position and try not to make any dents or flaws in the plastic. Wait overnight and check the water. Some of the bottles may still be liquid. If this is the case, try different techniques of shaking, hitting or disturbing the water in the bottle to see if the water will instantly freeze.

Instant Freeze Soda

Did you know soda will also instantly freeze? Here’s a video of Steve demonstrating this on 9News. You can also read step by step directions and the science behind the Instant Freeze Soda on the experiment page.

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Comments (8)

  • Samuel Reply

    Hi Steve! I have a question about the shrinking chips bag experiment. So me and my friend tried this and we started to wonder why it sparkle while it shrinks? We know it shrinks due to the polymers but not about the sparkles.

    Would be very happy for an answer! Regads Samuel! 🙂

    May 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm
    • Susan Wells Reply

      Hi Samuel – Great question. The electrical current on which the microwave runs and heats with, connects with the metal filaments in the chip bag. The filaments are excited by the electricity. The sparkles are the electrical current. This is why you are not supposed to put metal in the microwave. The electrical current and metal will eventually cause a fire or destroy the microwave. This experiment is ok to do, because the chip bag is only in the microwave for a few seconds and you are watching it at all times.

      May 7, 2012 at 9:11 am
  • phil sabine Reply

    Just checked on the net to see if my video was still on line….thanks for enjoying it…and using it….got lots of feed back on it…from people calling me a devil worshipper with some kind of magic…to a slight of hand…or like yours an educated explanation….

    It still amuses me and during the winter i put a case of
    water out in the garage to show people who want to see it….


    Phil Sabine

    May 18, 2012 at 8:20 am
  • Something Different....... - The Vette Barn Forum - A Community for Corvette Lovers Reply

    […] Instant Ice – Super Cold Water Turns to Ice Before Your Eyes | Steve Spangler's Blog […]

    July 27, 2012 at 11:49 am
  • Karen Puracan Reply

    Phil Sabine’s video is gone….. “copyright”???? 🙁

    April 3, 2014 at 11:09 am
  • Samira Sindha Reply

    Um I got a question and I need it to answered ASAP!At what temperature should the water be when it’s the cooler?Thanks!:)

    April 25, 2014 at 7:38 am
    • Mark Reply

      I need answer to this question too.

      January 29, 2015 at 6:31 am
  • Vísindavaka « Laufey Helga Reply

    […] Steve Spangler science […]

    January 28, 2016 at 10:59 am

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