The formation of nanoscale ice crystals (i.e. nucleation) plays a key role in fields as diverse as atmospheric chemistry and biology. Ice nucleation on metal surfaces affords an opportunity to watch this process unfold at the molecular-scale on a well defined, plane interface. A common feature of structural models for such films of ice is that they are built from hexagonal arrangements of molecules.
In order to address the challenge of characterising ice on the nanoscale, the team from the LCN joined up with a team of experimentalists from the University of Liverpool (lead by Professor Andrew Hodgson) to examine ice formation on a very well defined, atomically flat copper surface. The Liverpool group performed scanning tunneling microscopy experiments and the LCN and Berlin teams carried out ab initio calculations to predict what the microscopy results would be. Only through the combination of these two state-of-the-art approaches were they able to definitively show that the ice structures that form are made from pentagons.
|Contact: Dr. Thierry Bontoux|
University College London