Why does ice float? science experiment : Fizzics Education


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Why does ice float?

Why does ice float?

Follow FizzicsEd 150 Science Experiments:

You will need:

  • Ice cubes
  • 100mL Methylated spirits Warning: Flammable
  • 100mL Water
  • Two Measuring jugs with gradations
  • Measuring scales, preferably sensitive
  • Adult Supervision.


Why does Ice Float Science Experiment - setup_materials
1 Why does Ice Float Science Experiment - weighing water on the scales

Measure the weight of each liquid. Which one is lighter?

2 Why does Ice Float Science Experiment - placing ice cube in water

Place an ice cube in the water. Using the gradations on the side of the jug, try to estimate how much of the ice cube is above water compared to below the water.

3 why does ice float science experiment weighing spirits on the scale

Place an ice cube in the Methylated spirits. Describe what happened.

Try different liquids to see their effect on the ice.

4 A man using a pipette to drop blue coloured water onto a taught strong that is suspended over a tray

Get the Unit of Work on Water Science here!

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5 A cloud of liquid nitrogen vaur on a deask with a science presenter
6 Teacher showing how to do an experiment outside to a group of kids.

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Why Does This Happen?

Each liquid has a different density.
This means that although the volume is the same, the mass of each liquid is different.

Density = Mass/ Volume.
It can be affected by temperature and atmospheric pressure
The higher the density, the more compact the substance.

The density of water in grams per cubic centimetre is 1.00, however the density of ice is only 0.9182. Ice floats on water as it is less dense, however as the densities are quite close approximately 11% of the ice volume shows above the water surface.

Floating ice displaces the liquid water around it. If floating ice melts, there would be no visible change in global sea levels. However, if ice sheets over Greenland or Antarctica melt there will be a rise in sea levels. Scientific predictions are quite varied, as the water volumes within land ice are difficult to model. This is an ongoing field of research.

Methylated spirits is predominantly ethanol, which has a density of 0.785. As ice has a greater density at 0.9182, it fell through the liquid to the bottom of the container.

Variables to test

More on variables here

  • What happens if you place the ice cube in a different liquid such as canola oil or glucose syrup?
  • Does it matter if the liquid is cold vs warm?

A man with a glove above a liquid nitrogen vapour cloud

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