New Study Reveals New Phase Transition Properties of Water

Scientists discover new properties of water under sufficient super-cooling conditions, according to a new study published on March 9, 2018.

A team of scientists at the School of Molecular Sciences, University of Amsterdam, closely examined the physical properties of water.  Angell, lead author and colleagues spent most of the career studying water, however, for the first time observed an intriguing property.

They observed that on sufficient super-cooling and under specific conditions, water changes from one liquid to a different one. The new liquid is still water, however, with a lower density and differently arranged hydrogen bonded molecules. The bonding between the molecules in the newly formed water is much stronger than normal water, thus making it a relatively more viscous liquid.

Scientists explain that the newly discovered phenomenon is a liquid-liquid phase transition, which was previously seen only in computer simulations of water models.

However, it is difficult to get these results with real water, as it suddenly crystallizes to ice under the required conditions. This crystallization curtain phenomenon has restricted progress in understanding the physics of water for decades.

“The domain between this crystallization temperature and the much lower temperature at which glassy water (formed by deposition of water molecules from the vapor) crystallizes during heating has been known as a ‘no-man’s land,'” Angell said. “We found a way to pull aside the ‘crystallization curtain’ just enough to see what happens behind — or more correctly, below — it,” Angell said.

The understanding of phase transitions of water is thus important for a several applications. As, this phase is possible only under super-cooled conditions, thus more research is required for it to be used in various applications in the foreseeable future.

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