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Study led by GW professor provides better understanding of water's freezing behavior at nanoscale
Date:5/21/2013

The results of a new study led by George Washington University Professor Tianshu Li provide direct computational evidence that nucleation of ice in small droplets is strongly size-dependent, an important conclusion in understanding water's behavior at the nanoscale. The formation of ice at the nanoscale is a challenging, basic scientific research question whose answer also has important implications for climate research and other fields.

The crystallization of ice from supercooled water is generally initiated by a process called nucleation. Because of the speed and size of nucleationit occurs within nanoseconds and nanometersprobing it by experiment or simulation is a major challenge.

By using an advanced simulation method, Dr. Li and his collaborators, Davide Donadio of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, and Giulia Galli, a professor of chemistry and physics at the University of California, Davis, were able to demonstrate that nucleation of ice is substantially suppressed in nano-sized water droplets. Their paper, "Ice nucleation at the nanoscale probes no man's land of water," was published today in the journal Nature Communications.

"A current challenge for scientists is to unveil water's behaviors below -35 degrees Celsius and above -123 degrees Celsius, a temperature range that chemists call 'no man's land,' " said Dr. Li, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science. "Fast ice crystallization can hardly be avoided at such low temperatures, so maintaining water in a liquid state is a major experimental challenge."

Since the frequency of ice nucleation scales with the volume of water, one of the strategies for overcoming this kinetic barrier is to reduce the volume of water. However, this raises the question of whether water at the nanoscale can still be regarded as equivalent to bulk water, and if not, where th
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Contact: Joanne Welsh
jwelsh@gwu.edu
202-994-2050
George Washington University
Source:Eurekalert

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