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Maxima in the thermodynamic response and correlation functions of deeply supercooled water

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Science  22 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6370, pp. 1589-1593
DOI: 10.1126/science.aap8269

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Pointing to a second critical point

One explanation for the divergence of many of the thermodynamic properties of water is that there is a critical point in deeply supercooled water at some positive pressure. For bulk water samples, these conditions are described as “no man's land,” because ice nucleates before such temperatures can be reached. Kim et al. used femtosecond x-ray laser pulses to probe micrometer-sized water droplets cooled to 227 K (see the Perspective by Gallo and Stanley). The temperature dependence of the isothermal compressibility and correlation length extracted from x-ray scattering functions showed maxima at 229 K for H2O and 233 K for D2O, rather than diverging to infinity. These results point to the existence of the Widom line, a locus of maximum correlation lengths emanating from a critical point in the supercooled regime.

Science, this issue p. 1589; see also p. 1543

Abstract

Femtosecond x-ray laser pulses were used to probe micrometer-sized water droplets that were cooled down to 227 kelvin in vacuum. Isothermal compressibility and correlation length were extracted from x-ray scattering at the low–momentum transfer region. The temperature dependence of these thermodynamic response and correlation functions shows maxima at 229 kelvin for water and 233 kelvin for heavy water. In addition, we observed that the liquids undergo the fastest growth of tetrahedral structures at similar temperatures. These observations point to the existence of a Widom line, defined as the locus of maximum correlation length emanating from a critical point at positive pressures in the deeply supercooled regime. The difference in the maximum value of the isothermal compressibility between the two isotopes shows the importance of nuclear quantum effects.

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