The Properties of Water By Jeff Collmann What are some properties of water and how do they work?

Essay by jcollmannCollege, UndergraduateA+, December 2002

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Water is often considered the bases of life, but what properties of water give it such unique and beneficial characteristics to promote life? A few of these properties include: water in the solid state is less dense than in its liquid state, water has a large surface tension, and water is a polar molecule. Properties like these three make life possible.

Floating ice seems normally to most people, but if one takes the time to actually stop and examine why ice floats they would discover something very unique about water molecules. Unlike most liquids, water expands when it becomes solid. As the temperature reaches 0ºC, the hydrogen bonds present between the water molecules are no longer broken up by fast moving molecules, but instead stick together. Thus when 0ºC is reached water is in a crystalline lattice, meaning each water molecule has four hydrogen bonds (max. amt). The bonds space the water molecules out and therefore make water in the solid state less dense than in the liquid form.

The benefit of this is that now life can remain alive underneath ice in ponds, lakes, etc, despite below freezing temperatures. If water were more like other liquids life would not be possible through freezing temperatures.

The surface tension of water, believe it or not, has a more practical benefit than allowing you to fill up a cup past the top. Because of the greater amount of surface tension, actual animals can run, walk, or even stand right on water. This is explained again by hydrogen bonding. Between the air and water an invisible file is more or less created, because of the arrangement of hydrogen bonded molecules together and to the water.

Yet another unique property of water is its polarity. Due to its polarity, water is a great solvent.