Science Projects for Beginners

What Substance Melts Ice Fastest?

Another fun chemistry project is to test a variety of products to see which one works best to melt ice. As you probably know, materials are routinely used on roadways after snow and ice storms to provide traction and reduce slippery conditions.

Unfortunately, most of these applied chemicals can cause damage to soil and pollute water in lakes. It's important that we keep working to come up with alternatives to these chemical products that won't harm the environment.

Scientific Surprise

Cities and towns use hundreds of thousands of tons of salt and sand a year to keep the water on the roads from freezing. The salt, known as calcium chloride, helps to melt ice and snow by lowering the temperatures at which freezing can occur. The problem is that some of that salt and sand could end up in drinking water and cause health problems. Finding an economical alternative to road salt would be an earth-friendly solution.

In this experiment, you'll sprinkle various materials on ice cubes to test their melting properties. The variables you'll use are the different types of products, and the control is nothing. That is, you'll leave some ice untreated to see if it takes longer to melt than that which has been treated.

Substances you could use include road salt, calcium chloride, fertilizer, sand, and unused cat litter. All of these can be purchased at a home improvement or discount store.

To begin, empty a tray of ice cubes into a bowl. Sprinkle 12 ounces (336 grams) of one of the ice-melting materials over the ice cubes, then observe how long it takes for all the ice cubes to melt.

Write the elapsed time on a data chart. Repeat the procedure using a new set of ice cubes, a different product, and a clean, dry bowl.

When you've tested each product and also melted a tray of ice cubes by simply letting them sit at room temperature, you can compare differences in the melting times.

Did any of the materials come close to melting the ice as quickly as the road salt? What other materials might you use in this experiment? Can you think of any substance that might be a good replacement for the commonly used road salt?

book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Science Fair Projects © 2003 by Nancy K. O'Leary and Susan Shelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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