Water can flow below -130 C

June 28, 2011, Umea University

When water is cooled below zero degrees, it usually crystallizes directly into ice. Ove Andersson, a physicist at Umea University, has now managed to produce sluggishly flowing water at 130 degree below zero under high pressure – 10,000 times higher than normal pressure. It is possible that this sluggishly fluid and cold water exists on other heavenly bodies.

“The finding is also interesting in that it helps us understand the many abnormal properties of water. For example, it has been predicted that water would have two different liquid phases at low temperatures. The finding supports the existence of one of those two phases,” explains Ove Andersson.

Water is extremely difficult to chill in a way that makes it sluggishly flowing. Ove Andersson has accomplished this feat by exposing crystalline ice, in which the atoms are arranged in an orderly manner, to increased pressure at temperatures below -130o C. The order of the molecules and the ice collapsed into amorphous ice, with random order among the water molecules. 
“When I then raised the temperature, the ice transformed into sluggishly flowing water. This water is like regular water but its density is 35 percent higher, and the water molecules move relatively slowly, that is, the viscosity is high.”

Water has a great number of properties that deviate from normal behaviors. For example, in super cooled water, i.e. when the temperature drops below zero, the density decreases when the temperature is lowered and increases when it is raised. 
“There are deviations that have been known for many years, and they are very important. Yet there is no general explanation for them, but the answer may lie in how the properties of water are affected when it’s exposed to high pressure,” says Ove Andersson.

Some theories are predicated upon water existing in two different liquid phases, one with low density and another with high density. The theories revolve around the transition between the phases taking place at low temperature and high pressure. When water cools and approaches this zone, there can be a gradual transformation that affects the properties and lends water its abnormal properties. Unfortunately this transformation is difficult to study, since water normally crystallizes. An alternative way to approach the zone is first to create amorphous ice. The new findings show that amorphous ice probably converts into sluggishly flowing water when it is warmed up under . Ove Andersson has thereby also verified the existence of one of the two fluid phases predicted to exist at low temperatures.

“This is an important piece of the puzzle of understanding the properties of water, and it opens new possibilities for studying sluggishly flowing .”

Explore further: Scientists Observe Liquid Water Below Freezing

More information: Glass–liquid transition of water at high pressure, PNAS, Published online before print June 20, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1016520108

The knowledge of the existence of liquid water under extreme conditions and its concomitant properties are important in many fields of science. Glassy water has previously been prepared by hyperquenching micron-sized droplets of liquid water and vapor deposition on a cold substrate (ASW), and its transformation to an ultraviscous liquid form has been reported on heating. A densified amorphous solid form of water, high-density amorphous ice (HDA), has also been made by collapsing the structure of ice at pressures above 1 GPa and temperatures below approximately 140 K, but a corresponding liquid phase has not been detected. Here we report results of heat capacity Cp and thermal conductivity, in situ, measurements, which are consistent with a reversible transition from annealed HDA to ultraviscous high-density liquid water at 1 GPa and 140 K. On heating of HDA, the Cp increases abruptly by (3.4 ± 0.2) J mol-1 K-1 before crystallization starts at (153 ± 1) K. This is larger than the Cp rise at the glass to liquid transition of annealed ASW at 1 atm, which suggests the existence of liquid water under these extreme conditions.

Related Stories

Scientists Observe Liquid Water Below Freezing

June 24, 2009

(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, ...

The secret life of water at very low temperatures

June 16, 2010

The secret life of water just got weirder. For years water has been known to exist in 15 phases -- not just the merry threesome of solid, liquid and gas from grade school science. Now, University of Utah chemists have confirmed ...

Scientists create one-dimensional ferroelectric ice

February 25, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Everyone knows that when water freezes, it forms ice. But a lesser known fact is that there is not one, but many different kinds of ice, depending on the way the ice crystals are arranged. In a new study, ...

New observations on properties of water

December 13, 2006

Experimental studies conducted by Ph.D. Anatoli Bogdan at the University of Helsinki, Finland, have received broad interest in the scientific world, as the results might have applications even in the cryopreservation of cells ...

Researchers study how ice melts in contact with soil

June 19, 2004

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research in Stuttgart (Germany) and the ESRF in France has studied how ice starts to melt at temperatures as low as - 17ºC. This can occur when ice is in ...

Water: the Solvent of Choice

May 16, 2005

Miscibility not required: chemical reactions "on water" faster than in organic solvents We all know what it means to put something "on ice", but what is a chemical reaction "on water"? This new expression has been coined ...

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

Physicists reveal why matter dominates universe

March 21, 2019

Physicists in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University have confirmed that matter and antimatter decay differently for elementary particles containing charmed quarks.

ATLAS experiment observes light scattering off light

March 20, 2019

Light-by-light scattering is a very rare phenomenon in which two photons interact, producing another pair of photons. This process was among the earliest predictions of quantum electrodynamics (QED), the quantum theory of ...

How heavy elements come about in the universe

March 19, 2019

Heavy elements are produced during stellar explosion or on the surfaces of neutron stars through the capture of hydrogen nuclei (protons). This occurs at extremely high temperatures, but at relatively low energies. An international ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jun 29, 2011
Um, could this be related to regelation, per the classic cheese-wire experiment ?
2 / 5 (2) Jun 29, 2011
So they proved that ice flows?
If they increased pressure doesnt that mean the relative temperature is not below 0? Or am i missing something here..
not rated yet Jul 03, 2011
its 'great cool ' and great to discover it, by decreasing the temp and increasing the pressure will makes the normal water in to super water in ordinary life its has no use but for metal cooling in industries very useful

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.