Liquids at Large Negative Pressures: Water at the Homogeneous Nucleation Limit

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Science  08 Nov 1991:
Vol. 254, Issue 5033, pp. 829-832
DOI: 10.1126/science.254.5033.829


An isochoric cooling method for obtaining unprecedented tensions on liquids was used to determine the homogeneous nucleation limit for stretching of water at a variety of water densities. At densities in the range 0.55 to 0.68 gram per milliliter (g/ml), the data agree with the homogeneous nucleation temperatures measured by Skripov for superheated water at positive pressures. At densities between 0.68 and 0.93 g/ml, cavitation occurred only at negative pressures (that is, under tension). The cavitation tensions measured were in excellent agreement with those predicted by Fisher's 1948 vapor nucleation theory. A maximum tension of 140 megapascals (=1400 bars) was reached at 42°C, which lies on an extrapolation of the line of isobaric density maxima. At higher densities, cavitation of droplets that survived heterogeneous nucleation failed to occur at all unless provoked, at much lower temperatures, by freezing. This observation confirms the existence of a density maximum at 42°C and –140 megapascals and hence greatly strengthens the basis for Speedy's conjecture of a reentrant spinodal for water.

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