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Experimental observation of the liquid-liquid transition in bulk supercooled water under pressure

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Science  20 Nov 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6519, pp. 978-982
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb9385

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Liquid-liquid transitions under pressure

Theoretical simulations suggest that deeply supercooled water undergoes a transition between high- and low-density forms, but this transition is difficult to study experimentally because it occurs under conditions in which ice crystallization is extremely rapid. Kim et al. combined x-ray lasers for rapid structure determination with infrared femtosecond pulses for rapid heating of amorphous ice layers formed at about 200 kelvin. The heating process created high-density liquid water at increased pressures. As the layer expanded and decompressed, low-density liquid domains appeared and grew on time scales between 20 nanoseconds and 3 microseconds, which was much faster than competing ice crystallization.

Science, this issue p. 978

Abstract

We prepared bulk samples of supercooled liquid water under pressure by isochoric heating of high-density amorphous ice to temperatures of 205 ± 10 kelvin, using an infrared femtosecond laser. Because the sample density is preserved during the ultrafast heating, we could estimate an initial internal pressure of 2.5 to 3.5 kilobar in the high-density liquid phase. After heating, the sample expanded rapidly, and we captured the resulting decompression process with femtosecond x-ray laser pulses at different pump-probe delay times. A discontinuous structural change occurred in which low-density liquid domains appeared and grew on time scales between 20 nanoseconds to 3 microseconds, whereas crystallization occurs on time scales of 3 to 50 microseconds. The dynamics of the two processes being separated by more than one order of magnitude provides support for a liquid-liquid transition in bulk supercooled water.

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