Glass polymorphism and liquid–liquid phase transition in aqueous solutions: experiments and computer simulations
One of the most intriguing anomalies of water is its ability to exist as distinct amorphous ice forms (glass polymorphism or polyamorphism). This resonates well with the possible first-order liquid–liquid phase transition (LLPT) in the supercooled state, where ice is the stable phase. In this Perspective, we review experiments and computer simulations that search for LLPT and polyamorphism in aqueous solutions containing salts and alcohols. Most studies on ionic solutes are devoted to NaCl and LiCl; studies on alcohols have mainly focused on glycerol. Less attention has been paid to protein solutions and hydrophobic solutes, even though they reveal promising avenues. While all solutions show polyamorphism and an LLPT only in dilute, sub-eutectic mixtures, there are differences regarding the nature of the transition. Isocompositional transitions for varying mole fractions are observed in alcohol but not in ionic solutions. This is because water can surround alcohol molecules either in a low- or high-density configuration whereas for ionic solutes, the water ion hydration shell is forced into high-density structures. Consequently, the polyamorphic transition and the LLPT are prevented near the ions, but take place in patches of water within the solutions. We highlight discrepancies and different interpretations within the experimental community as well as the key challenges that need consideration when comparing experiments and simulations. We point out where reinterpretation of past studies helps to draw a unified, consistent picture. In addition to the literature review, we provide original experimental results. A list of eleven open questions that need further consideration is identified.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2019 PCCP HOT Articles