Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists take first dip into water's mysterious 'no-man's land'

Date:
June 18, 2014
Source:
DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Summary:
Scientists have made the first structural observations of liquid water at temperatures down to minus 51 degrees Fahrenheit, within an elusive 'no-man's land' where water's strange properties are super-amplified.

An X-ray laser pulse at SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source probes a supercooled water droplet (center, left). The speed and brightness of the X-ray pulses allowed researchers to study water molecules in the instant before freezing.
Credit: Greg Stewart/SLAC

Scientists at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have made the first structural observations of liquid water at temperatures down to minus 51 degrees Fahrenheit, within an elusive "no-man's land" where water's strange properties are super-amplified.

The research, made possible by SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser and reported June 18 in Nature, opens a new window for exploring liquid water in these exotic conditions, and promises to improve our understanding of its unique properties at the more natural temperatures and states that are relevant to global ocean currents, climate and biology.

Scientists have known for some time that water can remain liquid at extremely cold temperatures, but they've never before been able to examine its molecular structure in this zone.

"Water is not only essential for life as we know it, but it also has very strange properties compared to most other liquids," said Anders Nilsson, deputy director of the SUNCAT Center for Interface Science and Catalysis, a joint SLAC/Stanford institute, and leader of the research. "Now, thanks to LCLS, we have finally been able to enter this cold zone that should provide new information about the unique nature of water."

Not Your Typical Liquid

Despite its simple molecular structure, water has many weird traits: Its solid form is less dense than its liquid form, which is why ice floats; it can absorb a large amount of heat, which is carried long distances by ocean currents and has a profound impact on climate; and its peculiar density profile prevents oceans and lakes from freezing solid all the way to the bottom, allowing fish to survive the winter.

These traits are amplified when purified water is supercooled. When water is very pure, with nothing to seed the formation of ice crystals, it can remain liquid at much lower temperatures than normal. The temperature range of water from about minus 42 to minus 172 degrees has been dubbed no-man's land. For decades scientists have sought to better explore what happens to water molecules at temperatures below minus 42 degrees, but they had to rely largely on theory and modeling.

Femtosecond Shutter Speeds

Now the LCLS, with X-ray laser pulses just quadrillionths of a second long, allows researchers to capture rapid-fire snapshots showing the detailed molecular structure of water in this mysterious zone the instant before it freezes. The research showed that water's molecular structure transforms continuously as it enters this realm, and with further cooling the structural changes accelerate more dramatically than theoretical models had predicted.

For this experiment, researchers produced a steady flow of tiny water droplets in a vacuum chamber. As the drops traveled toward the laser beam, some of their liquid rapidly evaporated, supercooling the remaining liquid. (The same process cools us when we sweat.) By adjusting the distance the droplets traveled, the researchers were able to fine-tune the temperatures they reached on arrival at the X-ray laser beam.

Colder Still

Nilsson's team hopes to dive to even colder temperatures where water morphs into a glassy, non-crystalline solid. They also want to determine whether supercooled water reaches a critical point where its unusual properties peak, and to pinpoint the temperature at which this occurs.

"Our dream is to follow these dynamics as far as we can," Nilsson said. "Eventually our understanding of what's happening here in no-man's land will help us fundamentally understand water in all conditions."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. A. Sellberg, C. Huang, T. A. McQueen, N. D. Loh, H. Laksmono, D. Schlesinger, R. G. Sierra, D. Nordlund, C. Y. Hampton, D. Starodub, D. P. DePonte, M. Beye, C. Chen, A. V. Martin, A. Barty, K. T. Wikfeldt, T. M. Weiss, C. Caronna, J. Feldkamp, L. B. Skinner, M. M. Seibert, M. Messerschmidt, G. J. Williams, S. Boutet, L. G. M. Pettersson, M. J. Bogan, A. Nilsson. Ultrafast X-ray probing of water structure below the homogeneous ice nucleation temperature. Nature, 2014; 510 (7505): 381 DOI: 10.1038/nature13266

Cite This Page:

DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. "Scientists take first dip into water's mysterious 'no-man's land'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140618140011.htm>.
DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. (2014, June 18). Scientists take first dip into water's mysterious 'no-man's land'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140618140011.htm
DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. "Scientists take first dip into water's mysterious 'no-man's land'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140618140011.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — Inspired by the way a chameleon changes its colour to disguise itself; scientists in Poland want to replace traditional camouflage paint with thousands of electrochromic plates that will continuously change colour to blend with its surroundings. The first PL-01 concept tank prototype will be tested within a few years, with scientists predicting that a similar technology could even be woven into the fabric of a soldiers' clothing making them virtually invisible to the naked eye. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — Strong jet demand has pushed Boeing to raise its profit forecast for the third time, but analysts were disappointed by its small cash flow. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) — As more and more Bluetooth-enabled devices are reaching consumers, developers are busy connecting them together as part of the Internet of Things. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Is Magic Leap, And Why Is It Worth $500M?

What Is Magic Leap, And Why Is It Worth $500M?

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) — Magic Leap isn't publicizing much more than a description of its product, but it’s been enough for Google and others to invest more than $500M. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins