Confinement-Induced Phase Transitions in Simple Liquids

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Science  11 Aug 1995:
Vol. 269, Issue 5225, pp. 816-819
DOI: 10.1126/science.269.5225.816


The liquid-to-solid transition of a simple model liquid confined between two surfaces was studied as a function of surface separation. From large surface separations (more than 1000 angstroms) down to a separation corresponding to seven molecular layers, the confined films displayed a liquid-like shear viscosity. When the surface separation was further decreased by a single molecular spacing, the films underwent an abrupt, reversible transition to a solid. At the transition, the rigidity of the confined films (quantified in terms of an "effective viscosity") increased reversibly by at least seven orders of magnitude.