A molecule's eye view of water

 

Molecule's eye view A molecule's eye view of an ice crystal. Image courtesy Ben Slater and SnowCrystals.com

Researchers from University College London are using quantum mechanics to unlock the secrets of water.

Water is essential for life on Earth, and it is a resource we all take for granted.  Yet it has many surprising properties that have baffled scientists for centuries.  Seemingly simple ideas such as how water freezes are not understood because of water’s unique properties.  Now scientists are utilising increased computer power and novel algorithms to accurately simulate the properties of water on the nanoscale, allowing complex structures of hundreds or thousands of molecules to be seen and understood.  

“Using state-of-the-art computer simulation techniques we can now explain some of the mysterious properties of water such as how ice crystals grow, the structure of ice under high pressure or the behaviour of water in outer space.  Understanding these particular processes of water has great relevance to important contemporary issues such as cloud formation and climate change, cryo-preservation of cells, and even the search for extra-terrestrial life!” says Professor Angelos Michaelides, London Centre for Nanotechnology and Department of Chemistry, University College London.

Visitors to the exhibit will be shown how to instantly freeze super-cooled water, create their own unique snowflakes and have a go at melting ice crystals on one of the world’s largest supercomputers.

Exhibited by University College London

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