Scientists Observe Liquid Water Below Freezing

Jun 24, 2009 by Lisa Zyga weblog
ice water
Pockets of supercooled water in ice could host life in cold regions or on other planets where life has not previously been thought to exist. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Below 0 °C, water turns to ice. But beyond that, or below about -75 °C, the ice may turn back into liquid water. While scientists have previously predicted this phase transition with computer simulations, recent experiments may have finally demonstrated the existence of this ultra-cold water.

In a their study, Dino Leporini of the University of Pisa in Italy and his colleagues at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore say they have seen two new phases of when the water is cooled to low temperatures and squeezed to high pressures. In low-density liquid (LDL) water, form an open network, while in high-density liquid (HDL) water, the molecules are close together and break some . These observations confirm the prediction of scientist Gene Stanley in 1992, who first suggested the two new phases.

Leporini and his coauthors had to overcome several technical challenges in their experimental setup, since water tends to freeze before it can be supercooled to extremely low temperatures. To get around these challenges, the researchers decided to confine tiny pockets of liquid water inside ice, and then cool the liquid water to temperatures down to -183 °C. Instead of measuring the water directly, the scientists used a probe molecule called TEMPOL, which is sensitive to the viscosity of the water. The probe moved with two kinds of liquid-like motion, as would be expected if there were two kinds of liquid water beneath the ice: a more fluid HDL form, and a more viscous LDL form.

According to an article in Nature News, experts are divided on whether or not the experiments truly demonstrate the new water phases. Pablo Debenedetti, a specialist on the physics of liquids at Princeton University, questions whether the two types of water in the experiments are actually two distinct phases, and suggests that the liquid forms could appear gradually rather than sharply. Water specialist Austen Angell at Arizona State University questions the purity of the water in the pockets, pointing out that seawater shuts out salt when it freezes, and the probe movements could simply be caused by assorted impurities.

Studying new phases of liquid water could have interesting implications for life. As Leporini explains, pockets of supercooled water in could host life in cold regions or on other planets where life has not previously been thought to exist.

via: Nature News

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

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User comments : 8

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LuckyBrandon
4 / 5 (4) Jun 24, 2009
why would you need to separate it. if it freezes at 0C and liquifies again at -75C, why could you not just freeze the whole block to that temperature?
it seems to me that the only true proof of this is if you can make the whole block reliquify at this temperature. Otherwise, if you had a huge planet covered in ice suspected to have this situation, then you are talking about tiny little spaces that likely wont harbor any interest to us anyways...
E_L_Earnhardt
5 / 5 (3) Jun 24, 2009
'Much yet to learn about "The Staff Of Life"! One extra electron and it's a friend no longer!
Nartoon
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 25, 2009
But, but, the models predicted it, why are confusing the situation with real test results?
AtomThick
1 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2009
This is not what really happens. This doesn't mean that the water has a tripple point, instead they have just rediscovered on of the results of termodinamics PV = vRT, meaning that for a gas (maybe substance) if you increase pressure is just like you increase temperature. Therefore cool it to -75C and increase pressure so the temperature actually becomes slightly over 0C.

Nothing new here I'm affraid.
getgoa
1 / 5 (1) Jun 25, 2009
Its nice to know that nothing is forever, like water that never freezes--It is probably nearly impossible to break hydrogen since it is diatomic in nature,
jonnyboy
1 / 5 (1) Jun 25, 2009
why would you need to separate it. if it freezes at 0C and liquifies again at -75C, why could you not just freeze the whole block to that temperature?

it seems to me that the only true proof of this is if you can make the whole block reliquify at this temperature. Otherwise, if you had a huge planet covered in ice suspected to have this situation, then you are talking about tiny little spaces that likely wont harbor any interest to us anyways...


I think you may be confusing the Physorg editor;s comment "But beyond that, or below about -75 °C, the ice may turn back into liquid water." with what the article actually says. :-)
KBK
1 / 5 (1) Jun 28, 2009
Do a mass check while in this 'phase change' 'new' state.

There will be a difference.
LuckyBrandon
not rated yet Jun 29, 2009
jonnyboy-the article stated that the bubbles within the ice block maintained liquid water. I didnt confuse it at all. It simply is not a real confirmation to me until they do the whole block, and not just bubbles or pockets within the block.