Engineers create “eternal ice” from gallium and sapphire
Engineers from Duke University created “eternal ice”, for the first time achieving the coexistence of liquid and solid phases of matter at the nanoscale. The research results are published in Nature Matter.
The material is based on gallium – a silvery-bluish metal that becomes soft at room temperature. When heated to 30 degrees Celsius, gallium turns into a liquid state, a subsequent decrease in temperature to a level below zero makes it hard, but brittle. Gallium is also widely used in microwave electronics, high-speed semiconductors, infrared sensors.
In the experiment, scientists placed gallium nanoparticles on the surface of a sapphire. Sapphire is a monocrystal of alumina with a high density and high melting point and can be used, in particular, as an infrared optical material or as a base for glasses. When placed on sapphire, gallium nanoparticles formed a solid core with a liquid outer layer.
According to Professor John Cock, this is the first case of observed stable coexistence of solid and liquid phases of matter at the nanoscale.
“This peculiar combination of different states of aggregation was predicted theoretically and is indirectly observed in some materials in a narrow temperature range. But our results came as a surprise, especially – the stability of coexistence in a wide temperature range, “- said the researcher.
The operating temperature range of the new compound is -57 to 526 degrees Celsius.
From the point of view of fundamental physics, the discovery indicates the need to revise the traditional views on the equilibrium of liquid and solid phases, says Andres Aguado, professor at the University of Villadolid. The applied aspect makes the obtained results intriguing for the field of nanotechnology. In addition, in everyday life, such a compound can be used as non-melting ice.
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