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Effect of Nanoscale Confinement on Freezing of Modified Water at Room Temperature and Ambient Pressure



Understanding the phase behavior of confined water is central to fields as diverse as heterogeneous catalysis, corrosion, nanofluidics, and to emerging energy technologies. Altering the state points (temperature, pressure, etc.) or introduction of a foreign surface can result in the phase transformation of water. At room temperature, ice nucleation is a very rare event and extremely high pressures in the GPa–TPa range are required to freeze water. Here, we perform computer experiments to artificially alter the balance between electrostatic and dispersion interactions between water molecules, and demonstrate nucleation and growth of ice at room temperature in a nanoconfined environment. Local perturbations in dispersive and electrostatic interactions near the surface are shown to provide the seed for nucleation (nucleation sites), which lead to room temperature liquid–solid phase transition of confined water. Crystallization of water occurs over several tens of nanometers and is shown to be independent of the nature of the substrate (hydrophilic oxide vs. hydrophobic graphene and crystalline oxide vs. amorphous diamond-like carbon). Our results lead us to hypothesize that the freezing transition of confined water can be controlled by tuning the relative dispersive and electrostatic interaction.

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