Freezing of supercooled n-decane nanodroplets: from surface driven to frustrated crystallization
Whether crystallization starts at the liquid–vapor interface or randomly throughout the bulk has been the subject of intense debate. In our earlier work, we investigated the freezing of supercooled nanodroplets of short chain (C8, C9) n-alkanes formed by homogeneous condensation in a supersonic nozzle. The rate at which the solid appeared suggested freezing starts at the droplet surface well before the rest of the droplet freezes. Experiments were, however, limited to a single condition for each compound and it was not clear whether freezing of n-alkanes always occurs in this two step manner. Here, we expand our work to include freezing of a third n-alkane, n-decane, and, furthermore, we vary the temperatures at which droplets are formed and freeze. The phase transitions are again characterized using three experimental techniques – pressure trace measurements (PTM), Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), and Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS). We also use Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (WAXS) to confirm, for the first time, the crystalline nature of our frozen n-alkane nanodroplets. As the temperature at which the droplets form and freeze decreases, the kinetics of the phase transition changes. At higher temperatures, the phase transition occurs in two steps characterized by different rates, whereas at lower temperatures we observe only a single step. Finally, in the lowest temperature experiment, where droplets start to form and freeze ∼50 K below the bulk melting temperature, we found that the particles develop a fractal structure and appear locked in a “frustrated” crystalline state.