Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Official blog of the Lehigh University Chemical Engineers

Breaking Ice

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The spring break has been a good one for me. As you all know it has been freezing for the past week and all this ice has piled up on the driveway back home. So it becomes natural that the first thing that I did during spring break was to break all the ice. We’ve got like 2 to 3 inches of ice at some places. But fortunately, my neighbor has all these ice breaking tools from way back in time. He’s got this antique-ish iron cast rod with a sharp end that is 5 feet tall and weighs 50 pounds for ice breaking purposes solely. To work this thing was truly a workout for me (I ended up pulling a lot of my muscles but it was worth it). All you have to do is pick it up and smash it into the ice as hard as you can. However, there is sort of a technique though. You want to start at the edges of the ice blanket and chip it away slowly, without smashing it into your own foot, or somebody else’s. We covered one parking space worth of ice in an hour, so it has been quite productive in my neighbors standards (he’s 70 years old).

After we got all tired from breaking and shoveling, we decided to sprinkle more salt over the ice and take a 30 minute recess.The ice became significantly easier to break thankfully to the salt. That’s right salt melts ice. It’s because adding salt lowers the freezing point of water by weakening the ionic forces that makes water freeze at zero degrees Celcius. Instead, it will freeze at a lower temperature. We came back and finished the job with the help of more neighbors. Below is a video of why salt melts ice.

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Author: Jerry Jin

Hello, My name is Jerry Jin. I'm a senior at Lehigh University pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering. I'm from Allentown, PA, but I was born in Shanghai, China. I moved here when I was fourteen years old. I'm currently the secretary for Southeast Asia at Lehigh Club, and treasurer for SASE. I'm also on the Lehigh Ultimate Frisbee Team and I enjoy being spontaneous.

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