Artificially controlling water condensation leads to 'room-temperature ice'

Jul 27, 2010

Earth's climate is strongly influenced by the presence of particles of different shapes and origins -- in the form of dust, ice and pollutants -- that find their way into the lowest portion of the atmosphere, the troposphere. There, water adsorbed on the surface of these particles can freeze at higher temperatures than pure water droplets, triggering rain and snow.

Researchers at Spain's Centre d'Investigació en Nanocičncia i Nanotecnologia (CIN2) have studied the underlying mechanisms of water condensation in the and found a way to make artificial materials to control water condensation and trigger ice formation at . Described in the Journal of Chemical Physics, which is published by the American Institute of Physics, their work may lead to new additives for snowmaking, improved freezer systems, or new coatings that help grow ice for skating rinks.

"Several decades ago, scientists predicted that materials with crystal faces exhibiting a structure similar to that of hexagonal ice, the form of all natural snow and ice on Earth, would be an ideal agent to induce freezing and trigger rain," explains Dr. Albert Verdaguer. "This explanation has since proven to be insufficient."

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."

The next step? The researchers' goal now is to produce environmentally-friendly synthetic materials for efficiently inducing snow. "If water condenses in an ordered way, such as a hexagonal structure, on such surfaces at ambient conditions, the term 'room temperature ice' would be fully justified," adds Verdaguer. "The solid phase, , would be produced by a surface effect rather than as a consequence of temperature. In the long term, we intend to prepare smart materials, 'intelligent surfaces,' that will react to water in a predefined way."

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More information: The article, "Two-dimensional wetting: The role of atomic steps on the nucleation of thin water films on BaF2(111) at ambient conditions" by M. Cardellach, A. Verdaguer, J. Santiso, and J. Fraxedas was published online in the Journal of Chemical Physics on June 21, 2010. See: link.aip.org/link/JCPSA6/v132/i23/p234708/s1

Provided by American Institute of Physics

4.4 /5 (16 votes)

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adamshegrud
not rated yet Jul 27, 2010
I'm confused so would it have to get even warmer to melt, or would it naturally melt after some time of being at room temp.

I have to admit I cant even imagine how this "controlled condensation" works
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (2) Jul 27, 2010
The article could be significantly clearer on just what is going on, but I imagine that the room temp ice is only a few molecules thick. It sounds like they are basically using highly controlled surface tensions to force the crystallization of the water. I would be very surprised if they could grow macro scale room temp ice -- if they could, I am sure that they would have been bragging about it in the article.
fmfbrestel
1 / 5 (2) Jul 27, 2010
Any Vonnegut fans around? I always kind of liked the doomsday scenario of ice-9 crystallizing all of the earths water. Its at least a welcome break from nuclear war or micro black hole scenarios that are so common.

Come on doomsdayers, if this has even a tiny % chance of destroying the earth shouldn't we all march on their lab and demand they stop the work???? :-)
LariAnn
3 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2010
Sorry, no doom here unless they could get the ice to form at room temperature spontaneously without a starter material. Then again, if a particular waveform or electromagnetic field could induce this, we might have grounds for doom . . .
KBK
2 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2010
Hint:

Resonant noise levels of a sort have been shown to do the same.

For example, as of recent, it has been shown that the planes (specifically jets) high in the sky are creating and forming weather patterns merely via their passage, via the disturbance itself. Massive snowfalls, etc.

Now, go back to Reich and his cloudbusters, etc... and ...look again.

I'm not worried about being given low scores here, by engineers, etc. I'm talking to those who have the capacity to explore and think forward. The low score addicts don't affect me at all. Like water off a duck's back. Not worth concerning myself about.

~~~~~~~
Almost anything you can think of has been done before in some way or another, or has correlation in the existing world. Observation, connections, and recognition are key.

Exploration- not limits. Science does not belong to the (purposely) limited thinking engineering 'type' of mindset.

It belongs to the explorers and they need to recognize and enforce that basic point.
KBK
1 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2010
Sorry, no doom here unless they could get the ice to form at room temperature spontaneously without a starter material. Then again, if a particular waveform or electromagnetic field could induce this, we might have grounds for doom . . .


Regarding the specifics of my above post..and in the more fleeting bits of reports..dig around on the net and YOU WILL FIND 'electromagnetic and energetic resonant beaming weapons' that ..... do ~exactly~ what you speak of.

They are partially based on Reich's works, which is why he was so heavily prosecuted, ridiculed and erased, to the point of 'dying in jail' and having his books collected and burned. This, in modern America!!! Think about it.

~~~~~~~~~
As I have said before, the more open mindset of young explorers has been quietly recruited into 'interesting areas' of work, and once again, military science and science outside of the public eye is ~FAR~ more advanced than this 'known public face' we see here.
Hesca419
not rated yet Jul 28, 2010
Yeah, I'm with fmfbrestal. Not the doomsday scenario, but the first thing that jumped into my head after reading this was that I need to read Cat's Cradle again! ;)
If something is invented, somebody will do something supremely stupid with it, eventually. Guaranteed.