why does ice have less density than water

I don't think that this question is still fully resolved, water is a fascinating molecule! But here are some thoughts. Clearly, if ice is lighter than liquid water it is because it doesn't pack as well. Its an example of how a random-ish packing can be more efficient than an (non-closed packed) ordered packing of a "weirdly" shaped molecule. Imagine throwing LEGOs into a box, vs placing them very neatly, and orderly, two inches apart.


Why is this? To solidify the water should enter into a crystalline phase, but that requires accommodating the weird bonding angle of water (which is not quite tetragonal, which is easily packed. See C, Si, ect) in a way that can be made infinitely periodic, as compact as possible, and still satisfies the energy requirements.


Largely due to this weird bonding angle, the resulting packing needs volume. By contrast, in the liquid phase, the molecules do not have to be in specific sites. Rather, there is an attempt to maximize the hydrogen bonds. This leads (for example) to water chains. Meanwhile the thermal energy tries to scramble everything up, which breaks these chains up (average length of 7, if I recall).


Overall effect is that the water molecules in the liquid can put themselves into tight spaces, and stay long enough to make a difference, they can't in the ice phase.
(Original post by DeanK2 I think it is because the most stable form of ice involves four hydrogen bonds for each water molecule, which invokes an arrangement of H2O molecules that create 'skeleton' structure.


This structure has lots of space (i. e. will therefore be less dense). The structure of water is not known, but the interactions between the liquid water molecules will obviously not involve this arrangement, and therfore the molecules can be packed more closely [resulting in the ice being less dense].

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