Heterogeneous ice nucleation plays a key role in fields as diverse as atmospheric chemistry and biology. Ice nucleation on metal surfaces affords an opportunity to watch this process unfold at the molecular-scale on a well defined, planar interface. A common feature of structural models for such films is that they are built from hexagonal arrangements of molecules. In order to address the challenge of characterizing ice on the nanoscale the Researchers here at the London Centre for Nanotechnology, joined up with a team of experimentalists from Liverpool (lead by Andrew Hodgson) to examine ice formation on a very well defined atomically flat surface of Cu. They performed scanning tunneling microscopy experiments and we performed ab initio calculations.
Only through the combination of these two state-of-the-art techniques were we able to definitively show that the ice structures that form are made from pentagons.
Journal Link: "A one-dimensional ice structure built from pentagons" Nature Materials 8, 427 - 431 (2009)