What Substance Melts Ice Fastest?

Pupils learn about the states of matter with this printable science activity. Have your pupils sprinkle various materials on ice cubes to test their melting properties.
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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.

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?

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