Ice Is Predicted to Be Weirder Still

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Science  08 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6026, pp. 170-171
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6026.170-b

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A team of theorists says that a film of ice only two molecules thick may form the oddest of all crystalline structures, a so-called quasicrystal, which lacks the exact repeatability of an ordinary crystal structure but preserves other symmetries of a crystal. They considered two layers of water molecules that are confined between two generic metallic surfaces and subjected to low temperatures and high pressures. Near the surface, the V-shaped molecules, with an oxygen atom between two hydrogen atoms, must balance several influences. The oxygen atoms prefer to sit atop the atoms in the surface. The molecules also try to maintain the lengths of their oxygen-hydrogen bonds and to arrange themselves so that none of those bonds is left dangling. Simulations that account for those factors reproduce the known phases of ice on surfaces and predict the existence of a quasicrystal, they reported at the American Physical Society meeting.