IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


25th January, 2024 Science and Technology

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The Mpemba effect has recently captured the attention of scientists. After many experiments, we still don’t have a clear agreement, on what causes this puzzling phenomenon.


  • The Mpemba Effect refers to the observation that, under certain conditions, hot water can freeze faster than cold water.
  • However, the phenomenon is challenging to define precisely, and there is disagreement about its theoretical basis.
  • Monwhea Jeng proposed a more precise wording, stating that there exists a set of initial parameters and temperatures where hot water freezes sooner than cold water.

Historical Context

Ancient Observations:

  • Ancient scientists like Aristotle noted the influence of previously warmed water on freezing.
  • Francis Bacon and René Descartes also made observations related to the Mpemba Effect.

Joseph Black's Investigation:

  • Scottish scientist Joseph Black conducted experiments, comparing previously-boiled and unboiled water, finding that the previously-boiled water froze more quickly.

Erasto Mpemba's Discovery

  • Tanzanian scientist Erasto Mpemba discovered the effect in 1963 while making ice cream in high school.
  • Mpemba observed that hot ice cream mix froze faster than cold mix.
  • Mpemba's findings were initially met with skepticism but were later confirmed by Dr. Denis Osborne in 1969.
  • Mpemba and Osborne published their results, demonstrating that hot water could freeze faster under specific conditions.

Modern Experimental Work

  • David Auerbach's Observation:
    • Auerbach observed supercooling in water samples, reaching temperatures of -6 to -18 °C before spontaneous freezing.
  • Burridge and Linden's Study (2016):
    • Burridge and Linden defined the criterion as the time to reach 0 °C and conducted experiments.
    • They noted that the large differences claimed in earlier studies were not consistently replicated.
  • Philip Ball's Perspective:
    • Philip Ball emphasizes the need for controlling various initial parameters to understand the Mpemba Effect.
    • He suggests that the effect might be trivial or illuminating, depending on the underlying mechanisms.
  • New Scientist's Recommendations:
    • New Scientist recommends starting experiments with containers at 35 and 5 °C to maximize the effect.
    • Freezer temperature is noted as a factor influencing the Mpemba phenomenon.

Theoretical Explanations

  • Inverse Mpemba Effect: In 2017, research groups predicted an "inverse" Mpemba effect, where heating a cooled system takes less time than one initially closer to equilibrium.
  • Supercooling: Physicist James Brownridge suggests that supercooling is involved, and molecular dynamics simulations support changes in hydrogen bonding during supercooling.
  • Hydrogen Bonding and Crystallization:

Yunwen Tao and co-authors propose that variations in hydrogen bonding contribute to the effect.

  • A higher population of water hexamer states in warm water might be responsible for faster crystallization.
  • Microbubble-Induced Heat Transfer: Boiling-induced microbubbles in water may enhance heat transfer as the water cools.
  • Evaporation: Evaporation of warmer water may reduce mass, although it alone may not account for the entire effect.
  • Convection and Frost:
    • Convection currents and insulating effects of frost are suggested explanations.
    • Water density changes and the freezing pattern from top to bottom are considered.
  • Solutes and Dissolved Gases: The presence of dissolved minerals and changes in dissolved gases in water are proposed factors.
  • Thermal Conductivity: Thermal conductivity variations, including container contact with colder surfaces, are considered.

Similar Effects

  • Latent Heat and Leidenfrost Effect: Analogous phenomena include latent heat, where turning ice to water requires energy, and the Leidenfrost effect, where lower temperature boilers can vaporize water faster.


In conclusion, the Mpemba Effect remains a complex and debated phenomenon with various proposed explanations. Ongoing research and controlled experiments are crucial to gaining a comprehensive understanding of the conditions under which hot water can freeze faster than cold water.


Q. The Mpemba effect, a phenomenon where hot water freezes faster than cold water under certain conditions, has intrigued scientists for centuries. Discuss the scientific principles behind the Mpemba effect, its potential applications, and the challenges in understanding this phenomenon.(250 Words)