Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/28

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24
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

extent by melted phosphorus, carbolic acid, and many organic substances like thymol and betol that are seldom encountered outside a chemical laboratory.

Although many undercooled liquids are similar to water in that they may be changed to the stable state by agitation, this property is by no means general. An infallible test for undercooling is the addition of a fragment of the stable substance. Thus a bit of ice causes water to

 

PSM V83 D028 Crystals growing in supercooled thymol.png

Fig. 1. Crystals Growing in Undercooled Thymol.

 

solidify, similarly undercooled thymol becomes a crystalline mass upon the addition of a crystal of thymol, while undercooled sodium acetate solutions at once separate needle-like crystals of sodium acetate when a crystal of that substances is added. The addition of a solid fragment for the purpose of causing subsequent crystallization of the liquid is called inoculation or vaccination. The name is particularly fortunate, for the growth and spread of the crystals resembles a bacterial growth. Undercooled liquids are as sensitive to the presence of a crystal of the solid material as milk is to the presence of certain bacteria, and Just as much care must be exercised in their preservation. In working with undercooled sodium acetate under no circumstances may an open flask of this substance be brought into a room in which sodium acetate has been ground in a mortar, for the dust in the air carries enough finely divided sodium acetate to inoculate the solution. Frequently the in-

the solution, without such a separation taking place. Such solutions are usually said to be supersaturated.