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Homework Help: Water and mercury volume change with temperature

  1. Jan 6, 2013 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    Why do frozen water pipes burst? Would a mercury thermometer break if the temperature went below the freezing temperature of mercury? Why or why not?

    2. Relevant equations

    Relation of volume to temperature

    3. The attempt at a solution

    Water has its minimum volume at 4°C. Therefore, when the temperature drops below 4°C, the volume of the water increases continuously. Therefore, frozen water pipes burst.

    Mercury contracts when cooled, so a mercury thermometer would not break if the temperature went below the freezing temperature of mercury.

    Are these answers correct?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 6, 2013 #2
    "Frozen" means "liquid went solid". Compare the volume a given mass of liquid water occupies with that of solid water. Ditto for mercury.
  4. Jan 8, 2013 #3
    But, I did! Did I not?

    Liquid water has a smaller volume than solid ice. Therefore, frozen water pipes must burst, right?

    On the contrary, liquid mercury has a larger volume than solid mercury. Therefore, a mercury in tube thermometer should not break, right?

  5. Jan 8, 2013 #4


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    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    That crucial fact was not as clear as it might have been in your original post. Just add that and it looks fine.
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