Solidification in heat packs: III. Metallic trigger



The metallic trigger used in commercial heat packs initiates solidification by releasing minute crystals of solid sodium acetate trihydrate into the subcooled solution. These crystals are harbored in submicron cracks on the disk's surface and are released when the disk is flexed. Using scanning electron microscopy, such seed crystals are observed on the surface of a disk after flexing it. Classic nucleation theory is used to investigate the behavior of crystals residing in the cracks on the metallic disk's surface during heating and cooling. Sodium acetate trihydrate crystals are capable of surviving in a 1-nm crack or smaller at regeneration temperatures of the order of 353 K. These seed crystals grow to the mouth of the crack at temperatures below the liquidus, but can only promote solidification of the whole solution surrounding the disk at temperatures below 256 K or when the disk is flexed.