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Synchrotrons Explore Water's Molecular Mysteries Print
Friday, 01 February 2013 00:00

In experiments at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Advanced Light Source, scientists observed a surprisingly dense form of water that remained liquid well beyond its typical freezing point. Researchers applied a superthin coating of water—no deeper than a few molecules—to the surface of a barium fluoride crystal. This surface was expected to stimulate ice formation, but even when chilled to a temperature of about 6.5 F—well below water’s normal freezing point—the water remained liquid. The research, published in Nature Scientific Reports, spanned more than three years and represents a milestone in understanding some of the many exotic properties water exhibits under a range of conditions.

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Illustration of the first layer of a thin film of water on a barium fluoride crystal surface, showing that the water sample exists in an unexpected, high-density liquid form, with chain-like molecular formations resembling low-density crystalline ice. Fluoride ions are represented by purple, barium ions with green, and the red and white rods represent oxygen and hydrogen atoms (respectively) in water molecules. (Credit: Nature Scientific Reports)