New research helps scientists to calculate exact ice formation speed

Recently carried research has enabled scientists to calculate the exact rate at which water crystallizes to form ice. This breakthrough has been made possible by using a realistic computer model of water.

The study was spearheaded by Amir Haji-Akbari, a postdoctoral research associate, and Pablo Debenedetti, a professor of chemical and biological engineering. The duo used simulation carried out on supercomputers that gave a complete insight into the exact process by which water is transformed from a liquid state into the crystalline solid state.

Amir Haji-Akbari and Pablo Debenedetti examined the process that starts when the water molecules start attaching with one another to form a solid blob of the surrounding liquid. The blobs are short lived and disappear as fast as they are formed.

Occasionally, a big blob that in scientific terminology is known as the critical nucleus is formed. The formation of the critical nucleus is known as “Nucleation” and is a permanent process.

To know the process of nucleation, researchers prepared a computerized model of water which imitates the atoms of Hydrogen Oxygen (H2O) found in real water. Using computer simulation, researchers calculated the average time required to form the critical nucleus at a temperature of minus 43 degrees Celsius. It is the temperatures prevalent in high altitude clouds.

Scientists discovered that for one cubic meter of pure water, the time it takes to form the critical nucleus is one millionth of a second.

Haji Akbari explained the significance of the discovery and said that it will enable scientists to deduce the nucleation rate for relatively accurate models of water.

Scientists said that the latest discovery will help the understanding of ice formation. It will add to the knowledge of how extremely cold temperatures affect living and nonliving systems. It will be possible to know how living cells respond to cold and how ice is formed in clouds at high altitudes.