Why does ice form at a range of temperatures?

April 1, 2024
Above: Chemistry professor Valeria Molinero. Credit: Brian Maffly

From abstract-looking cloud formations to roars of snow machines on ski slopes, the transformation of liquid water into solid ice touches many facets of life. Water’s freezing point is generally accepted to be 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

But that is due to ice nucleation—impurities in everyday water raise its freezing point to this temperature. Now, researchers at the University of Utah have unveiled a theoretical model that shows how specific structural details on surfaces can influence water’s freezing point.

A team led by chemistry professor Valeria Molinero presented its results at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Held virtually and in person in New Orleans, March 17-21, the spring conference featured nearly 12,000 presentations on a range of science topics. Molinero’s study was just one of a handful the society highlighted.

“Ice nucleation is one of the most common phenomena in the atmosphere,” said Molinero, who investigates physical and materials chemistry. “In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a surge of interest in ice nucleation to control weather through cloud seeding and for other military goals. Some studies addressed how small shapes promote ice nucleation, but the theory was undeveloped, and no one has done anything quantitative.”

Read the full article in @TheU.

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