Mirror of Ice
Water is the most abundant compound on Earth’s surface, covering about 70 percent of the planet. In nature, water exists in liquid, solid, and gaseous states. It is in dynamic equilibrium between the liquid and gas states at standard temperature and pressure. At room temperature, it is a tasteless and odorless liquid, nearly colorless with a hint of blue. Many substances dissolve in water and it is commonly referred to as the universal solvent. Because of this, water in nature and in use is rarely pure and some of its properties may vary slightly from those of the pure substance. However, there are also many compounds that are essentially, if not completely, insoluble in water. Water is the only common substance found naturally in all three common states of matter and it is essential for all life on Earth. Water usually makes up 55% to 78% of the human body.
Forms of water
Like many substances, water can take numerous forms that are broadly categorized by phase of matter. The liquid phase is the most common among water’s phases (within the Earth’s atmosphere and surface) and is the form that is generally denoted by the word “water.”
The solid phase of water is known as ice and commonly takes the structure of hard, amalgamated crystals, such as ice cubes, or loosely accumulated granular crystals, like snow.
For a list of the many different crystalline and amorphous forms of solid H2O, see the article ice. The gaseous phase of water is known as water vapor (or steam), and is characterized by water assuming the configuration of a transparent cloud. (Note that the visible steam and clouds are, in fact, water in the liquid form as minute droplets suspended in the air.)
The fourth state of water, that of a supercritical fluid, is much less common than the other three and only rarely occurs in nature, in extremely uninhabitable conditions. When water achieves a specific critical temperature and a specific critical pressure (647 K and 22.064 MPa), liquid and gas phase merge to one homogeneous fluid phase, with properties of both gas and liquid. One example of naturally occurring supercritical water is found in the hottest parts of deep water hydrothermal vents, in which water is heated to the critical temperature by scalding volcanic plumes and achieves the critical pressure because of the crushing weight of the ocean at the extreme depths at which the vents are located. Additionally, anywhere there is volcanic activity below a depth of 2.25 km (1.40 mi) can be expected to have water in the supercritical phase.
The melting point of ice is 0 °C (32 °F, 273.15 K) at standard pressure, however, pure liquid water can be supercooled well below that temperature without freezing if the liquid is not mechanically disturbed. It can remain in a fluid state down to its homogeneous nucleation point of approximately 231 K (−42 °C).