A pleasant surprise in the freezer

Ice Spikes

Our automatic ice maker is on the fritz, so we’ve temporarily reverted to making ice in conventional trays. But, imagine our delight at opening up the freezer and finding this!

Several of our ice cubes apparently formed with long spikes on top. This is really *not* what you expect when you start out with liquid water in an ice cube tray.

Snowcrystals.com has a fairly detailed explanation of how these things form, and it’s documented elsewhere as well. (Roughly speaking, supercooled water is pushed up through a hole, somewhat like magma forming a volcano.) It’s relatively easy to form these in your freezer if you start with distilled water, but occasionally– as in our case –they do occur with regular tap water.

9 thoughts on “A pleasant surprise in the freezer

  1. I’ve often had large bumps in my ice cubes (though not usually quite so dramatic as yours) and wondered how they were formed… Now I feel like distilling water and finding out just how funky my ice can get.

    I think I am, therefore I am… I think

  2. I get these all the time in my freezer. I always wondered how the hell these things formed. Thanks.

  3. I wonder how closely these are to Tin whiskers?

    Also, for some real fun, try cracking the ice cubes as they’re about half frozen so that they freeze with an air bubble inside. When you drop them in a warm drink, sometimes the ice will shatter with a pop, and blast bits of ice and drink right out of the glass. ;-)


  4. Wendel, I’ve seen the same thing and speculated as to how the spikes form. I think Sunnyvale tap water must be fairly low in mineral content (tastes half-decent too).


  5. Man, I saw these all the time until we got our new fridge. I always thought it was warmer water, quasi-steam, "squirting" up through a thin layer of ice. I would experiment with different temperature tap water but to no avail. Very interesting find!

  6. I had assumed these form as a result of residual ice, either from a previous use of the tray without thorough cleaning before refilling, or crystals that loosen from the sides of the tray and float to the top during the freezer’s defrost cycle. Not having read the linked article, I could be mistaken.

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