Journal Article Two types of quasi-liquid layers on ice crystals are formed kinetically

Asakawa, Harutoshi  ,  Sazaki, Gen  ,  Nagashima, Ken  ,  Nakatsubo, Shunichi  ,  Furukawa, Yoshinori

113 ( 7 )  , pp.1749 - 1753 , 2016-02-16 , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)
Surfaces of ice are covered with thin liquid water layers, called quasi-liquid layers (QLLs), even below their melting point (0 °C), which govern a wide variety of phenomena in nature. We recently found that two types of QLL phases appear that exhibit different morphologies (droplets and thin layers) [Sazaki G. et al. (2012) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109(4):1052−1055]. However, revealing the thermodynamic stabilities of QLLs remains a longstanding elusive problem. Here we show that both types of QLLs are metastable phases that appear only if the water vapor pressure is higher than a certain critical supersaturation. We directly visualized the QLLs on ice crystal surfaces by advanced optical microscopy, which can detect 0.37-nm-thick elementary steps on ice crystal surfaces. At a certain fixed temperature, as the water vapor pressure decreased, thin-layer QLLs first disappeared, and then droplet QLLs vanished next, although elementary steps of ice crystals were still growing. These results clearly demonstrate that both types of QLLs are kinetically formed, not by the melting of ice surfaces, but by the deposition of supersaturated water vapor on ice surfaces. To our knowledge, this is the first experimental evidence that supersaturation of water vapor plays a crucially important role in the formation of QLLs.

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