Ice Formation At Room Temperature Is Possible With New Material

Ice formation at room temperature appears to be possible, according to researchers at Spain's Centre d'Investigació en Nanocičncia i Nanotecnologia (CIN2). their method uses artificial surfaces to control the process of water condensation, resulting ultimately in the creation of thin ice films.

The research team chose to study barium fluoride (BaF2), a naturally occurring mineral, also known as "Frankdicksonite," as an option. They examined water adsorption on BaF2 (111) surfaces under ambient conditions using different scanning force microscopy modes and optical microscopy to zoom in on the role atomic steps play in the structure of water films, which can affect the stabilization of water bilayers and, ultimately, condensation. Despite having the desired hexagonal structure, BaF2 turned out to be a poor ice-nucleating material. But oddly enough, other researchers had discovered that when the mineral's surface has defects, its condensation efficiency is enhanced. Verdaguer and his colleagues figured out why this occurs. "Under ambient conditions -- room temperature and different humidities -- we observed that water condensation is mainly induced by the formation of two-dimensional ice-like patches at surface defects," Verdaguer says. "Based on our results and previous research, we're preparing artificial materials to improve water condensation in a controllable way."

If this method, which was reported upon in an article that appeared in a recnt issue of the Journal of Chemical Physics, proves to be commercially viable, it could contribute to diverse practical tasks like snowmaking, freezer systems and skating rinks.

Science fiction fans view with some trepidation the idea that ice might form at room temps. In his 1963 classic Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut writes about an artificial substance called ice-nine, which is created in response to a request from a Marine general:

"...suppose, young man, that one Marine had with him a tiny capsule containing a seed of ice-nine, a new way for the atoms of water to stack and lock, to freeze. If that Marine threw that seed into the nearest puddle...?"
"The puddle would freeze?" I guessed.
"And all the muck around the puddle?"
"It would freeze?"
"And all the puddles in the frozen muck?"
"They would freeze?"
"And the pools and the streams in the frozen muck?"
"They would freeze?"
"You bet they would !" He cried. "And the United States Marines would rise from the swamp and march on!"
(Read more about ice-nine)

From Physorg; also, read more details about the idea and history of the ice-nine idea (including ice-nine comments.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/27/2010)

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