Chilly stuff

Direct computational evidence that explains how the nucleation of ice in small droplets is strongly size-dependent could help scientists explain one of the most peculiar of water's properties at the nanoscale. Exactly how ice forms the tiniest of crystals as water begins to freeze is a scientific problem not only of fundamental importance but with implications to atmospheric science and climate research. Tianshu Li of George Washington University and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Germany and a team at the University of California, Davis, hoped to reveal water’s properties below -35 but above -123 degrees Celsius. The chemists refer to this temperature range as a no man's land because of the difficulty of maintaining water in the liquid state experimentally. The team's findings suggest that it is possible if the droplets are confined on the nanoscopic scale and that the tiniest of ice crystals can form on the surface of such droplets.