Nanotubes Made Water Molecules Square Up Into Them


Nanotubes of the right sizes can force water inside them to square up transforming into a new sort of ice, which can lead to the development of new and improved kinds of nanochannels devices, including nanoscale syringes and capacitors. These are the results of a new experiment carried out by Rice University engineers.

As the researchers pointed out in the presentation of the study in the American Chemical Society journal Langmuir, if you would insert water in nanotubes of a specific width, then the water molecules will form into a square rod. With their study, they proved their hypothesis that weak “van der Waals” forces between water molecules and nanotubes’ surfaces are still sufficiently potent to snap hydrogen and oxygen atoms in their places.

Rouzbeh Shahsavari, the scientific team’s leader, resembled the resulted formation inside the nanotube as “two-dimensional ice,” as the water is freezing despite the surrounding temperatures, the research providing a better insight into the methods to leverage atomic interactions between water and nanotubes for the future use in nanochannels and energy-storing nanocapacitors.

Water molecules inside nanotubes form into a square rod

As the scientists knew already that hydrogen atoms within tightly restrained water adopt exciting structural features, Shahsavari and his team developed molecular models of carbon and boron nitride nanotubes of customizable widths.

Modeling water molecules of approximately 3 angstroms in width within carbon and boron nitride nanotubes of variable atomic lattices angles and up to 12 angstroms in diameter, the researchers noticed that the nanotubes had a significant impact on the equilibrium between van der Waals pressure and molecular interactions, forcing the water to form into a square rod and then into two-dimensional ice.

“If the nanotube is too small and you can only fit one water molecule, you can’t judge much. If it’s too large, the water keeps its amorphous shape. But at about 8 angstroms, the nanotubes’ van der Waals forces start to push water molecules into organized square shapes,” explained Shahsavari.


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