My brother and I were talking about how he needed to take his beers out of the freezer because they would burst open. This made me think of something no professor ever addressed... Obviously work is occurring on the beer can, but oxymoronically it's due to the removal of heat energy. The secret I imagine is in the phase change itself, which likely takes its own energy (which would normally be given off as heat) and uses it to expand (do work).

My questions extend on this idea...

  1. What if we replace the beer can with a 5 inch thick steel capsule. Does the capsule prevent the water from freezing because there isn't enough room to expand?

  2. What about if you take even more energy away? Would absolute zero finally break the capsule?

  3. Can a strong enough container simply prevent water from phase changing to a solid altogether, regardless of temperature?

  4. Normally increasing the pressure of a substance will cause it to freeze (in chemistry class my teacher made water boil at room temperature with a vacuum pump removing pressure). With water though, it expands while freezing... So paradoxically if you have water in a strong capsule and keep increasing the pressure (instead of temperature), will the water eventually freeze or simply remain very cold liquid?


  • $\begingroup$ In scenario 1, it turns out that the water will expand. Steel may not be strong enough to prevent this. See the 50 second excerpt from this video: youtu.be/31pLJyReFXw?t=6m49s (which is a modern rehashing of a Faraday lecture)... $\endgroup$
    – Zhe
    Jul 12, 2017 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ Always interested in beer-related posts. That said, it's a bit broad as written and you might benefit by breaking it up into separate queries. $\endgroup$ Jul 12, 2017 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ True Todd , but any of them answered would be interesting! They are also fairly related, basically the behavior of water on strong containers with varying temperature and pressure. And cool paracetemol, I couldn't find a similar one but would appreciate if you can locate it! Thanks Zhe will watch when I get home $\endgroup$ Jul 12, 2017 at 19:50

1 Answer 1


Long story short, it goes as follows:

  1. Yes, the freezing water does perform some work. You put a load on top of a bucketful of water, and as it freezes, it will lift the load all right.

  2. Yes, a capsule would prevent the water from freezing, at least for a while (provided that the capsule is immensely strong). Then some of the beer (water?) will freeze. Then... see the next item.

  3. No, the absolute zero would not finally break the capsule. Rather, it would turn water into some alternative kind of ice which is more dense than water. BTW, you won't have to get precisely to absolute zero to achieve that.

  4. True, normally increasing the pressure of a substance will cause it to crystallize ("freeze"). Water is different in this regard, which is quite rare, but by no means unique.


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