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Q & A: How does water turn into a gas?

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Q:
how does water turns into gas?
- Anonymous
MA, US
A:
Great question!

If you were to take water (like many other materials) and break it up into almost the smallest things you could, you’d get molecules. If the molecules are stuck together really tightly in a regular pattern, then they’re called a solid. The solid form of water is ice. This actually makes a lot of sense, because it certainly does seem like all the little parts of a solid (like ice) are stuck together very tightly.

When you heat something up, it makes the molecules move faster. If you heat up a solid, it melts and becomes a liquid. In a liquid (like water), the molecules are still stuck together, but they can move around some. What actually happens is that the molecules are still sort of sticking together, but they’re constantly breaking apart and sticking to different molecules. This also makes sense when you think about water. Water sort of sticks together, but it breaks apart /really/ easily.

If you heat a liquid like water up even more (like if you put it in a pot on the stove), then the molecules will move around so fast that they can’t even hold on to each other at all. When this happens, all of the molecules go flying apart and become a gas (like when you boil water to make steam). The process of gas molecules leaving the liquid to go into the gas is called "evaporation." The opposite process is called "condensation."

Hope this answers your question!

-Tamara (small mods by mbw)

(republished on 07/24/06)

Follow-Up #1: running car on gas?

Q:
how can i turn the water into gas so i can use it as a fuel to run my car please.
- Eric King (age 54)
Cornwall ,England
A:

Whoops, the gas that water turns into when it boils is not gasoline, it's steam. You can't burn it.

You can use electrical current to turn water into hydrogen and oxygen, and power engines by burning the hydrogen. The problem is that it always takes more energy to decompose the water than you get back from burning the hydrogen. That's not an engineering limit, it's a law of nature.

Mike W.


(published on 05/30/08)

Follow-Up #2: Water into hydrogen scam

Q:
Is it possible to make a device to install under the car hood that will turn water into hydrogen gas and mix it with regular gasoline and run your car engine with it to increase your gas mileage? Visit the website called halfwaterhalfgas.com and see a device that is supposed to convert water into hydrogen and mix it with gasoline to power a car. Does this REALLY work or is it a scam?
- Kayla Fisher (age 56)
Hartshorne, Oklahoma USA
A:
It's a scam.   These scams have been around for years.   
While it is possible to decompose water into its constituent gasses, hydrogen and oxygen, the amount of energy it takes is more than the amount of energy you get back from burning the hydrogen.  There is always a net loss.      Don't buy one.
p.s.  If you omit the 'g' and add an 's' to the URL name, you get my opinion...

LeeH

(published on 08/03/08)

Follow-up on this answer.