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The initial responses of hot liquid water released under low atmospheric pressures: experimental insights

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/2010
Number of pages19
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Experiments have been performed to simulate the shallow ascent and surface release of water and brines under low atmospheric pressure. Atmospheric pressure was treated as an independent variable and water temperature and vapor pressure were examined as a function of total pressure variation down
to low pressures. The physical and thermal responses of water to reducing pressure were monitored with pressure transducers, temperature sensors and visible imaging. Data were obtained for pure water and for solutions with dissolved NaCl or CO2. The experiments showed the pressure conditions under which the water remained liquid, underwent a rapid phase change to the gas state by boiling, and then solidified because of removal of latent heat. Liquid water is removed from phase equilibrium by decompression.
Solid, liquid and gaseous water are present simultaneously, and not at the 611 Pa triple point, because dynamic interactions between the phases maintain unstable temperature gradients. After phase changes stop, the system reverts to equilibrium with its surroundings. Surface and shallow subsurface pressure
conditions were simulated for Mars and the icy satellites of the outer Solar System. Freezing by evaporation in the absence of wind on Mars is shown to be unlikely for pure water at pressures greater than c. 670 Pa, and for saline solutions at pressures greater than c. 610 Pa. The physical nature of ice that forms depends on the salt content. Ice formed from saline water at pressures less than c. 610 Pa could be similar to terrestrial sea ice. Ice formed from pure water at pressures less than c. 100 Pa develops a low thermal conductivity and a ‘honeycomb’ structure created by sublimation. This ice could have a density as low as
c. 450 kg m-3 and a thermal conductivity as low as 1.6Wm-1 K-1, and is highly reflective, more akin to snow than the clear ice from which it grew. The physical properties of ice formed from either pure or saline water at low pressures will act to reduce the surface temperature, and hence rate of sublimation, thereby prolonging the lifespan of any liquid water beneath.