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Ever noticed that ice doesn’t melt immediately in the microwave? What is the science behind this peculiar behavior of ice in the microwave? This behavior of ice is different from water because water molecules are in a liquid state. So, why doesn’t ice melt in the microwave?
Ice melts in the microwave but quite slowly. It is because ice has a crystal solid structure in which the molecules are closely packed together. Ice molecules have hydrogen bonds strongly holding them together. That’s why ice doesn’t absorb appreciable energy in the microwave and melts slowly.
If you want to learn about the structure of ice and how microwaves affect ice and water differently, you are in the right place. All of it is due to the structure of ice, the bonds present between ice molecules and the arrangement of molecules. So, let’s get into the science behind ice melting in the microwave!
Melting Ice in the Microwave: Why does it take so long?
You must have noticed that ice melts in the microwave at a very slow rate as compared to when you melt it over a stove. The reason is the structure of ice and the working of the microwave oven.
Here’s the thing:
Ice is a solid in which particles are closely packed together. They have vigorous hydrogen bonds which require a lot of energy to break. Therefore, ice needs excess energy to melt.
The microwave oven doesn’t provide sufficient energy for ice molecules to break apart immediately.
Moreover, microwaves don’t penetrate the structure of ice considerably. The solid structure of ice doesn’t have appreciable empty spaces to allow microwaves to go through them. Therefore, it takes some time to melt ice in the microwave.
The strong hydrogen bonds in ice don’t let individual molecules leave the structure too easily. They don’t vaporize in low energy.
Ice vs Water in Microwave
If you perform an experiment by placing ice and water separately in the microwave, the water will evaporate more quickly than the ice. Even though ice only requires some amount of heat to melt whereas the boiling point of water is quite high.
This difference is due to the different structures of ice and water. Water is a liquid in which molecules are farther apart from each other as compared to ice.
The hydrogen bonds in water are between distant molecules. But the hydrogen bonds in ice are between tightly packed molecules. Therefore, ice requires much more energy than water to turn into liquid. In fact, the amount of energy ice requires to melt slightly is equivalent to the energy that water holds at 80-degree celsius.
The crystal structure of ice doesn’t allow the molecules to rotate or move much. Whereas the water molecules start vibrating by absorbing more energy than ice molecules.
Now you know that ice melts slower in the microwave because of its crystal structure. It takes a lot of energy for the hydrogen bonds in ice to break and release the molecules. The tightly packed structure of ice doesn’t absorb enough energy and it takes time for ice to melt in the microwave.