New evidence shows water separates into two different liquids at low temperatures

  • 21.08.2022
  • New Scientist

Fresh evidence that water can change from one form of liquid into another, denser liquid, has been uncovered by researchers at the University of Birmingham and Sapienza Università di Roma.

This 'phase transition' in water was first proposed 30 years ago in a study by researchers from Boston University. Because the transition has been predicted to occur at supercooled conditions, however, confirming its existence has been a challenge. That's because at these low temperatures, water really does not want to be a liquid, instead it wants to rapidly become ice. Because of its hidden status, much is still unknown about this liquid-liquid phase transition, unlike about everyday examples of phase transitions in water between a solid or vapour phase and a liquid phase.

This new evidence, published in Nature Physics, represents a significant step forward in confirming the idea of a liquid-liquid phase transition first proposed in 1992. Francesco Sciortino, now a professor at Sapienza Università di Roma, was a member of the original research team at Boston University and is also a co-author of this paper.