Is ice denser than water?« Back to Questions List

You may have noticed ice floating on water. Density of an object is defined as the mass of an object per unit volume at some definite temperature. Density should not be confused to the quantity of substance present. The density of a gold coin and a gold statue could be the same though the statue may contain greater amount of gold. Thus density is independent of the quantity present.

Any substance that is less dense than water floats on water. When the substance is denser, it sinks to the bottom of the water. While it sinks, it displaces an amount of water equal to its weight. Normally substances are most dense in their solid state than in their liquid state. Water is an exception in this case as it is denser in liquid state compared to its frozen solid state called ‘ice’.


ice, dense, water,atom

When a liquid freezes into a solid, the liquid particles move closer together and form strong bonds with one another. There are now more particles in the same area causing the frozen solid to be denser than the liquid. The reason for frozen solid ‘ice’ being less dense than water is because of the hydrogen bond present in water molecule. 

Water molecule contains two hydrogen atoms are covalently bonded to one oxygen atom and also has an additional attraction to the neighboring oxygen atom of another water molecule. This bond with the neighboring oxygen atom is called the hydrogen bond. Hydrogen bonds are very specific and can lead to special properties in certain molecules. Hydrogen becomes slightly positive repels other hydrogen atoms and attracts negatively charged oxygen atoms.


ice, dense, water

Water has a maximum density at a temperature of 4°C. Liquid water contains by far the densest hydrogen bonding of any solvent with almost as many hydrogen bonds as there are covalent bonds.     As the water is cooled below 4°C, the hydrogen bonds tend to hold the negatively charged oxygen atoms apart. This results in the crystal lattice formation which is nothing but ‘ice’. The hydrogen bonds in ice crystals force atoms further apart than in liquid state thereby making it less dense. That is why ice floats on water.


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