Expert shares fundamental discoveries of water's behavior on metals

Mar 14, 2011

Previous research into the behavior of water films, specifically molecularly thin ice films on metals, has left many fundamental questions unresolved, questions Sandia National Laboratories' Dr. Konrad Thürmer is beginning to unravel. Studying the interactions between ice and metals helps to decipher the basics of catalysis, corrosion, fuel cells, and the formation of clouds. Thürmer's talk was hosted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Frontiers in Chemical Physics and Analysis Seminar Series. This series brings experts from around the world to discuss current research.

As part of his talk, Thürmer discussed his team's latest research into how nucleates and grows on surfaces at different temperatures. This research was performed using scanning tunneling microscopy, a technique that, under typical conditions, destroys the delicate water films. Therefore, the team had to develop an innovative non-destructive approach to obtain the images they wanted.

Thürmer and his team began with platinum at 140K, or -207 degrees Fahrenheit. They added a tiny amount of water and watched the ice form. The assumption was that the water would form layers of bulk-structured water. They got surprisingly different results. Instead, the scientists saw the ice undergo a delicate process that began with a lace-like two-dimensional structure and ended with terraced film morphologies.

The lace-like structure contains pentagons and heptagons, as well as the expected hexagons. By conducting theoretical calculations, the team found that this varied arrangement formed because the water molecules twist to create a flat, irregular low-energy structure with no broken bonds. The structure of the water films they observed may help explain results seen, but unexplained, in other water-on-metal systems.

The discussion on ice nucleation along with current research on surface diffusion, screw dislocations facilitating the growth of metastable cubic , and proton arrangement were well received by the audience. "Thürmer's team is doing novel work that is getting at the real molecular-level structure of water on surfaces," said Dr. R. Scott Smith, a senior physical chemist who attended the seminar. "This work is near and dear to our hearts."

Explore further: Towards controlled dislocations

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

It's raining pentagons

Mar 08, 2009

This week's Nature Materials (09 March 2009) reveals how an international team of scientists led by researchers at the London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN) at UCL have discovered a novel one dimensional ice ch ...

Ice Gets Bent Out of Shape

Sep 09, 2009

For the first time, scientists have built completely flat, two-layer ice. While theoreticians have predicted that such ices are formed by squeezing water molecules between two surfaces, scientists at Pacific ...

Metal oxide 'can transform'

Feb 15, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A team including Oxford University scientists has been investigating what happens to the top layer of atoms on the surface of a material that splits water and has potential uses in nanoelectronics.

How to split a water molecule

Apr 18, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A research team at RIKEN, Japan’s flagship research organization has succeeded for the first time in selectively controlling for reaction products in the dissociation of a single water molecule ...

Recommended for you

Towards controlled dislocations

19 hours ago

Crystallographic defects or irregularities (known as dislocations) are often found within crystalline materials. Two main types of dislocation exist: edge and screw type. However, dislocations found in real ...

Chemists tackle battery overcharge problem

Oct 17, 2014

Research from the University of Kentucky Department of Chemistry will help batteries resist overcharging, improving the safety of electronics from cell phones to airplanes.

Surface properties command attention

Oct 17, 2014

Whether working on preventing corrosion for undersea oil fields and nuclear power plants, or for producing electricity from fuel cells or oxygen from electrolyzers for travel to Mars, associate professor ...

User comments : 0