It turns out, at nanoscale levels, water changes its properties.
Since a while now, scientists have known that under certain conditions, a limited quantity of water can be coaxed into changing its freezing or boiling point. It will take more heat to convert a liquid under pressure into steam while it will take less energy to boil a pot of water on the top of Mount Everest.
Scientists have now taken this concept a step further and have observed that water stored in nanotubes can actually freeze into a solid at temperatures well beyond its natural boiling point.
“If you confine a fluid to a nanocavity, you can actually distort its phase behavior,” explained MIT’s Michael Strano.
The group’s research in a nanotube test environment saw water solidifying at temperatures above 105 °C (222 °F), in contrast to expectations of laymen.
Scientists had however expected the liquid’s boiling and freezing temperatures to shift slightly.
“The effect is much greater than anyone had anticipated.” Said Stano. “All bets are off when you get really small.”
The group of researchers observed this phenomenon using a technique known as vibrational spectroscopy. Through this, they got scientific confirmation that water confined in nanotubes can shift to a “stiff phase”. However, they are still hesitant to say whether this stiff phase is equivalent to frozen water.
“It’s not necessarily ice,” explained Strano, “but it’s an ice-like phase.”
Regardless of what terminology you use, this phenomenon can now be exploited to create highly conductive “stable water wires.” The future is full of possibilities. Exciting times ahead.
Here’s a link pointing to the findings of this research group.