Tired of broken hotel ice machines, Spanish researchers went ahead and found out how to grow ice at room temperature. Seems like a slippery slope.
At the Centre d'Investigació en Nanociència i Nanotecnologia (CIN2), researchers are busy studying just how ice forms in the troposphere, and while they were at it decided to check out just how one might go about making ice without say...a freezer.
See, water is actually a great deal more complex and versatile than we realize, and there are a great deal more states of water than the simple solid, liquid and gas forms. Scientists have been aware for some time now that temperature does not have to be the defining characteristic of ice formation, and postulated in the elegant eighties that specific materials which have hexagonal crystal "face" structures - similar to that of ice - should be able to induce and encourage freezing.
Like so many things from that crazy-ass decade, this just didn't add up.
The CIN2 researchers used barium fluoride (BaF2) , also known as "Frankdicksonite" in honor of Frank W. Dickson, Professor of Geochemistry at Stanford University (Frankdicksonite? Really? Wow), to perform their initial tests.
The structure of ol' BaF2 is such that it should have made an ideal surface for ice generation, but no dice, and no ice.
Instead, the team found that it was when the surface of the BaF2 was imperfect - pitted or broken - condensation would take place and then ice would begin to form rapidly. Turns out, ice likes it rough.
Condensation: water droplets equal a win for ice.
Now, the team hopes to create environmentally friendly snow-making options, as well as the ability to create room-temperature ice cubes for your highballs and cocktails. In theory, new materials could be developed to control the behaviour of water independent of the temperature of a location, leading to the ability for hot countries to produce their own water supply.
Now if they could just give us in cold countries the ability to produce white sandy beaches and drinks with umbrellas in them out of the twisting nether, we'd be all set.