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Ice–Liquid Oscillations in Nanoconfined Water

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journal contribution
posted on 19.07.2018, 00:00 by Noah Kastelowitz, Valeria Molinero
Nanoscale confinement has a strong effect on the phase behavior of water. Studies in the last two decades have revealed a wealth of novel crystalline and quasicrystalline structures for water confined in nanoslits. Less is known, however, about the nature of ice–liquid coexistence in extremely nanoconfined systems. Here, we use molecular simulations to investigate the ice–liquid equilibrium for water confined between two nanoscopic disks. We find that the nature of ice–liquid phase coexistence in nanoconfined water is different from coexistence in both bulk water and extended nanoslits. In highly nanoconfined systems, liquid water and ice do not coexist in space because the two-phase states are unstable. The confined ice and liquid phases coexist in time, through oscillations between all-liquid and all-crystalline states. The avoidance of spatial coexistence of ice and liquid originates on the non-negligible cost of the interface between confined ice and liquid in a small system. It is the result of the small number of water molecules between the plates and has no analogue in bulk water.