MIT Scientists Defies Nature With The Help of Nanotechnology


It is an established scientific fact that water freezes at zero degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, a group of scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have defied nature once again with the help of nanotechnology and froze water at its boiling point.

Using carbon nanotubes, MIT researchers are able to freeze water into solid ice at a temperature where it's supposed to boil. The carbon nanotubes are small structures that are shaped like straws. They have internal dimensions which are a little bigger than water molecules.

Michael Strano, a professor of chemical engineering at MIT and part of the research team, said the effect is much greater than they have anticipated and also a bit of a mystery. That's because, by nature, carbon nanotubes are naturally hydrophobic - they repel water. Thus, it is a mystery that water could enter into these small straw-like structures. What more, the behavior of the water changes inside these carbon nanotubes.

Aside from this, the scientists also discovered that even a tiny difference in the size of the tubes have tens of degrees of difference in the freezing point of water. That means, there are lots of unexplored space as things get smaller said Strano.

What the scientists did was left the nanotubes open on both sides and allow streams of water to flow inside both ends. As water flows inside the tubes, the researchers are able to detect not only the presence of water but also the phase it is in the whole process. Strano said they were able to detect whether it is in liquid or solid state or in a vapor phase. Despite this, however, the scientists did not refer to the solid state as ice because doing so will imply that water has reached a crystalline structure, which they haven't been able to present a conclusion yet. Rather, they refer to the state as an ice-like phase.

The team also included MIT graduate students, Lee Drahushuk and Lee Shimizu, postdoctorate student Kumal Argawal, and undergraduate student Daniel Kilcoyne. The research was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

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