MIT Researchers Discover Water Turns Solid At Boiling Temps In Carbon Nanotubes

Posted: Nov 29 2016, 5:08am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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MIT Researchers Discover Water Turns Solid at Boiling Temps in Carbon Nanotubes
A team at MIT has found an unexpected discovery about water: Inside the tiniest of spaces — in carbon nanotubes whose inner dimensions are not much bigger than a few water molecules — water can freeze solid even at high temperatures that would normally set it boiling. The finding might lead to new applications such as ice-filled wires. Courtesy of the MIT Researchers
  • Experts at MIT demonstrate Astonishing Behavior of Water in Carbon Nanotubes

Experts at MIT have demonstrated the bizarre behavior of water in carbon nanotubes. It turns into a solid state at high temperatures when it should in fact be boiling.

Water is known to boil at 100 degrees Celsius. However, researchers have noticed an anomaly. When water is left in very narrow spaces, its boiling and freezing points may vary.

A drop of almost 10 degrees occurs under these special conditions. Now, a group of scientists at MIT have come upon an even stranger phenomenon.

Inside carbon nanotubes which are no bigger than a few water molecules, the the water freezes even at temperatures which would ordinarily make it boil.

What is familiar can become very unfamiliar when you confine it to tiny spaces that are no larger than a billionth of a meter. This technology may have novel applications in completely unrelated fields of endeavor.

Ice filled wires are one area where the technology may be put to good use. The electric and thermal qualities of ice at room temperatures come to mind. The study has been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

By confining a substance to a nanocavity, you automatically change its behavior. Its changes across the gamut of phases from solid to liquid to gas are transformed as a result.

While such changes were normal par for the course, it was the extent of the switch over that really shocked the scientists. When the water solidified at a temperature of 105 degrees Celsius, it was quite a surprise.

It was a changeover greater than anyone had ever thought would be possible. The carbon nanotubes were the smallest structures that you could think of. These nanotubes were left hollow at both ends with water molecules protruding from either side.

The smallest degree of change in these nanotubes’ width made a big difference in the freezing point and boiling point of water. It was almost like night and day had been swapped.

When it comes to small spaces, it is a completely new world. It is virtually unexplored territory. The contradictions in terms really amazed the scientists who conducted the experiments.

It is a miracle in itself that the water could enter the small nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes normally repel water. It is indeed all a big mystery. The water in the nanotubes was measured using highly sensitive imaging techniques.

While the solid state of water at boiling point in the nanotube is not exactly ice, it is in an ice-like state. This phenomenon will be looked into even more closely in the future.

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