Does Ice Conduct Electricity?

No, ice cube does not conduct electricity. Conduction of electricity in a substance requires the flow of charged ions. In tap water, charged ions are present due to dissolved salt and minerals. Hence, regular tap water conducts electricity but when these water molecules are frozen to form ice, the charged icons do not move freely. This restricted movement of charged particles does not allow the flow of current. Therefore, ice is a poor conductor of electricity. Also, pure water and the ice formed from pure water do not conduct electricity due to the absence of charged ions.

Can Ice Conduct Electricity?

We know that ice is the solid form of water and water (tap water) conducts electricity. Therefore, ice should also conduct electricity. This is not true. Ice cannot conduct electricity. To solve this mysterious question, let’s first understand why an object conducts electricity.

How does electricity flow in an object?

For electricity to flow through an object, free electrons are required. We know that all objects are made up of atoms. Metals such as copper and silver who are good conductors of electricity have loosely attached electrons in the outermost levels of the atom. These loosely attached electrons move freely in the random direction inside the object and form a sea of electrons.

Read: Where Do Electrons Come From?

When a voltage difference is applied across the object, these free electrons start to flow in a closed loop from the negative terminal to the positive terminal. Hence in this way, objects conduct electricity. Objects or substance which conducts electricity is called good conductors while those who don’t conduct electricity are called bad conductors. These bad conductors are also known as insulators. The atoms present in these insulating materials don’t have free electrons in their outermost shell. As there are no free electrons in the insulators, no conduction of electricity occurs. Glass, wood, and plastic are some of the examples of bad conductors of electricity.

Read: Does Electricity Have Mass?

Let’s now understand

How does water conducts electricity?

You will be surprised to know that pure water does not conduct electricity. Water conducts electricity only when it contains impurities such as salts and minerals. The water we use on regular basis such as tap water, swimming pool water, or even rainwater contains many impurities such as chemicals and minerals which are ionic compounds consists of positive and negative ions. The presence of these impurities makes water an iconic solution that electrically neutral as the positive and negative ions cancel each other.  These ions allow water to conduct electricity.

Now you must be thinking

Does ice have free electrons or ions to conduct electricity?

Now it is obvious that the ice formed from the pure water, does not conduct electricity because it lacks free ions.

You will get surprised again to know that the ice formed the impure water also does not conduct electricity. When the water molecules are frozen to form ice, the movement of charged ions gets restricted and there are no free ions to conduct electricity. When water is frozen, water molecules form strong bonds among each other and creates a rigid crystalline structure. This formation of rigid lattice does not allow charged ions to move freely and thus, ice becomes an insulator.

Professor Atom

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Professor Atom is a science enthusiast and alumni of IIT Bombay. According to him, every question can be solved with curiosity and mind mapping. ( Curiosity = Asking Questions = Learning )

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