Scientists have figured out the reasons for the ideal arrangement of ice particles at low temperatures. It turned out that impurities can interfere with this process.
The researchers noted that unlike most other materials, ice particles become less ordered at very low temperatures. Scientists have set themselves the task of theoretically substantiating the reasons why this happens, and how it is possible to restore order in the laboratory. The team relied on a relatively little-known yet fundamental property of very low-temperature ice: ferroelectricity. This is the appearance of spontaneous polarization in a crystal at certain temperatures.
“In a perfectly ordered block of ice, the hydrogen atoms of each water molecule must point in one direction, like a company of soldiers. Instead, water molecules in ice, even at very low temperatures, can look in different directions, ”the scientists noted.
The researchers explained this behavior of molecules by impurities – as soon as they enter the initial nonequilibrium low-temperature state, they affect the molecules that are in front of and behind them. This extremely atypical process has many characteristics that can explain the incomplete onset of ferroelectric order in ice.
“Our research has so far been limited to a small amount of ice, but this mechanism seems to apply to all molecules. In particular, this explains the long-known small local ferroelectric polarization, a phenomenon related to the agglomeration of ice particles in interstellar space, ”the researchers noted.