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Not So Great Inventions #5

Science brain teasers require understanding of the physical or biological world and the laws that govern it.


Puzzle ID:#16105
Fun:*** (2.79)
Difficulty:** (1.92)
Submitted By:od-1Aca****
Corrected By:boodler




Yet another inventor trying to find a better way to remove ice and snow from his car windows has come up with an almost great invention. This product uses a spray can containing a pure alcohol (in this case methyl hydrate) to melt away ice and snow from the windows. Alcohol (or methyl hydrate) is often used as gas line anti-freeze and in a mixed form in windshield washer fluid to keep it from freezing. It works really well to melt ice and this product is still sold even though it almost never works as the manufacturers claim. But why does it fail to produce a clear ice-less window?


To be honest the product isn't a complete bomb. It does some of what it claims to do. The alcohol initially does indeed melt the ice and snow from the windows. But here's the catch: pure alcohol evaporates very very quickly even in cold temperatures. So you spray the window, the ice melts creating water which mixes with the alcohol, the alcohol evaporate leaving behind water, which refreezes on the window again. So you repeat the process again & again & again. Eventually you get only a micro thin layer of something like frost. But it never seems to totally remove the ice. This whole process can take longer than scraping by hand. Which shows you don't need to have a good product, just good advertising.

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