antifreeze, substance added to a solvent to lower its freezing point. The solution formed is called an antifreeze mixture. Antifreeze is typically added to water in the cooling system of an internal-combustion engine so that it may be cooled below the freezing point of pure water (32°F or 0°C) without freezing. Any substance that dissolves will cause freezing-point depression (see colligative properties); a desirable antifreeze also should not corrode metal parts, attack rubber, become viscous at low temperatures, or evaporate readily at the ordinary engine operating temperature. It should be chemically stable, a good conductor of heat, and a poor conductor of electricity. Ethylene glycol is the most widely used automotive cooling-system antifreeze, although methanol, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, and propylene glycol are also used. Substances that inhibit corrosion are usually added; antifoaming agents are sometimes added as well. In automotive windshield-washer fluids, an alcohol (e.g., methanol) is usually added to keep the mixture from freezing; it also acts as a solvent to help clean the glass. The brine used in some commercial refrigeration systems is an antifreeze mixture; it is typically a water solution of calcium chloride or propylene glycol.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.