To experimentally observe the expansion of water with the rise in temperature, a glass flask containing colored water is filled to the top, making sure that no air is trapped in it. Study the experimental set up shown in the image.
A straw is attached to a cork and fitted into a flask with colored water. The level of water in the straw is noted.Then the flask is placed in a beaker containing hot water and soon, after a small decrease in the water level in the straw, the level is seen to rise. The initial drop in the water level is due to expansion of the flask upon application of heat, after which the water gets heated up and rises. This shows that water expands when provided with thermal energy.
The expansion of water obtained by the above experiment is relative to its containing flask and is known as apparent expansion. On the other hand, the actual value of expansion is known as absolute expansion.
Anomalous Expansion of Water
The general tendency of substances when they are heated is that their density decreases. In the case of ice, as the temperature is increased from 0Â° C, the density of water being formed goes on increasing. This anomalous behavior takes place till the temperature of the water reaches 4Â°C, which is the point of maximum density for water. As temperatures are increased beyond 4Â°C, water follows the general behavior in which its density decreases with an increase in temperature (thermal expansion of water).
This behavior of water is responsible for the survival of aquatic life in cold regions where water bodies like lakes are frozen during the winter season. Due to the cold atmosphere, ice begins to form on the surface of a lake as seen in the figure. However, since density of water is maximum at 4Â°C, and ice at 0Â°C is less dense than the water at 4Â°C, ice floats on the surface of the lake. Since water and ice are bad conductors of heat, the water below the ice layer sustains life at 4Â°C
Consequences of thermal expansion
Water forms 71% of the Earthâ€™s composition; thus, the thermal expansion of water has major consequences. One important outcome of this phenomenon lies in the rising sea levels globally. As the average global temperatures are rising, sea water gets heated up and expands. This expansion of water leads to sea level rise.
On the other hand, due to global warming, polar ice caps and glaciers are melting. The water thus formed, called â€˜meltwaterâ€™, further adds to the rising sea levels. A graph of rise in sea level (in centimeters) from the year 1993 to 2018 is shown.
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