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Structure of ice crystallized from supercooled water

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • Tamsin L. Malkin
  • Benjamin J. Murray
  • Andrey V. Brukhno
  • Jamshed Anwar
  • Christoph G. Salzmann
Journal publication date24/01/2012
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Number of pages5
Original languageEnglish


The freezing of water to ice is fundamentally important to fields as diverse as cloud formation to cryopreservation. At ambient conditions, ice is considered to exist in two crystalline forms: stable hexagonal ice and metastable cubic ice. Using X-ray diffraction data and Monte Carlo simulations, we show that ice that crystallizes homogeneously from supercooled water is neither of these phases. The resulting ice is disordered in one dimension and therefore possesses neither cubic nor hexagonal symmetry and is instead composed of randomly stacked layers of cubic and hexagonal sequences. We refer to this ice as stacking-disordered ice I. Stacking disorder and stacking faults have been reported earlier for metastable ice I, but only for ice crystallizing in mesopores and in samples recrystallized from high-pressure ice phases rather than in water droplets. Review of the literature reveals that almost all ice that has been identified as cubic ice in previous diffraction studies and generated in a variety of ways was most likely stacking-disordered ice I with varying degrees of stacking disorder. These findings highlight the need to reevaluate the physical and thermodynamic properties of this metastable ice as a function of the nature and extent of stacking disorder using well-characterized samples.

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