Cracking the ice crystal conundrums

Water has always been a paradoxical compound, expanding when it should contract, contracting when it should expand, absorbing more heat than expected, and acting as an amazing solvent for a huge range of compounds. In its solid form, it present just as many puzzles to materials scientists. Now, a collaboration between scientists in the UK and Germany, published in the journal Nature Materials, has led to a breakthrough in the understanding of the formation of ice. Angelos Michaelides of the London Centre for Nanotechnology and Karina Morgenstern of Leibniz University, Hannover, have coupled experimental observations and molecular modeling to obtain a high-resolution picture of the smallest possible piece of ice formed on hydrophobic metal surface. Their findings provide a molecular view of ice nucleation and could have implications for understanding climate with respect to ice crystal formation in the upper atmosphere.