Water in a tight spot freezes at room temperature

From the Journal of Things Kurt Vonnegut Warned Us About, Japanese scientists have discovered a way to make water freeze at room temperature.

i-57f8461e57dcb3a6e119a127d72cdfa8-icecrystals.jpgImage CC Nicholas Bufford

The team of scientists were investigating the properties of water molecules wrapped in single-atom thick carbon nanotubes. The nanoconfined water displayed several unusual properties. Most striking was that as the width of the carbon nanotube decreased, the melting point of the water trapped inside rose. These "tubule ices" are unlike any seen in bulk water, and can even occur at room temperatures.

Thankfully, there's no risk of this Japanese Ice-nine spreading through the municipal water supply, crystallising everything it touches. But nano-confined water does occur everywhere in nature - from soil to the insides of the human body. So pat yourself the back, you're even more amazing than you realised.

The work was carried out by scientists from Tokyo Metropolitan University, Nagoya University, Japan Science and Technology Agency, and National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and is published in the Journal of Chemical Physics. via


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If water can freeze, crystallize, at room temperature if confined on a nano scale do other materials do the same thing. Hmmm ... what other materials might we want to act like it was cold when at room temperature ... how about superconductors.

As I understand it superconductor research is still largely done on a fairly macro scale. If a material was not a superconductor unconfined might it not change its structure, behavior, if trapped as a nano scale?

Yes, stupid, and baseless, speculation. Fun to think about nonetheless.

It isn't the cold-ness of the material we care about with superconductors, it's the thermal energy (low enough not to split the very weakly bound Cooper pairs).

Cooper pairs are also rather large, and you'd need it to live within the nanotube or you'd need to include the carbon lattice in your energy requirements.

What may be more interesting is that a crystal lattice is more ordered and that the ordering may be possible to keep once you've extracted the "frozen" contents. A lamellar lubricant could work better in small amounts as liquid than as a solid.

The article mentions that nano-confined water occurs in nature. Does that mean that water freezing in this manner has been observed previously? I do agree that the machinery of our bodies is quite amazing!

Ben W

It's amazing the there's a way that water turn into ice at room temperature. But what would be its difference from the ice produced at freezing point temperature? Would their structure and molecular composition the same?

Nano tubes are hard to find, so better freeze my water in the freezer.

By cna training (not verified) on 24 Jun 2011 #permalink