Ice-Nine Modeled In Harvard Computer - We're Doomed

Harvard has finally ended the world (in simulation, anyway) by creating a computer model that shows how it might be possible for water to remain frozen at body temperature.

Doctoral student Alexander Wissner-Gross and Efthimios Kaxiras, physics professor and Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, have created a computer model that shows how it is possible for a layer of diamond coated with sodium atoms to keep water frozen indefinitely at up to 108 degrees Fahrenheit.

In ice, water molecules are arranged in a rigid framework that gives the substance its hardness. The process of melting is somewhat like a building falling down: pieces that had been arranged into a rigid structure move and flow against one another, becoming liquid water.

The computer model shows that whenever a water molecule near the diamond-sodium surface starts to fall out of place, the surface stabilizes it and reassembles the crystalline ice structure.

The coating would make it possible for biomedical devices planted in the body to have a more biocompatible coating.

Fortunately for the rest of the planet, however, the technique will only work for extremely thin layers of water - two nanometers at body temperature, which is just a few water molecules.

But, it's a start.

Everybody knows about ice-nine from Kurt Vonnegut's 1963 novel Cat's Cradle, in which a helpful scientist creates a tiny sliver of an ice crystal that could stay solid at room temperature. Once it touched other water, every molecule of that water would organize itself into the solid ice-nine matrix. The result?

There were no smells. There was no movement. Every step I took made a gravelly squeak in blue-white frost. And every squeak was echoed loudly. The season of locking was over. The Earth was locked up tight...
(Read more about Vonnegut's ice-nine)

Via Physorg. Thanks also to an anonymous reader who contributed the tip.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/1/2007)

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