Issue 17, 2022

The role of structural order in heterogeneous ice nucleation


The freezing of water into ice is a key process that is still not fully understood. It generally requires an impurity of some description to initiate the heterogeneous nucleation of the ice crystals. The molecular structure, as well as the extent of structural order within the impurity in question, both play an essential role in determining its effectiveness. However, disentangling these two contributions is a challenge for both experiments and simulations. In this work, we have systematically investigated the ice-nucleating ability of the very same compound, cholesterol, from the crystalline (and thus ordered) form to disordered self-assembled monolayers. Leveraging a combination of experiments and simulations, we identify a “sweet spot” in terms of the surface coverage of the monolayers, whereby cholesterol maximises its ability to nucleate ice (which remains inferior to that of crystalline cholesterol) by enhancing the structural order of the interfacial water molecules. These findings have practical implications for the rational design of synthetic ice-nucleating agents.

Graphical abstract: The role of structural order in heterogeneous ice nucleation

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Article information

Article type
Edge Article
15 Nov 2021
07 Apr 2022
First published
08 Apr 2022
This article is Open Access

All publication charges for this article have been paid for by the Royal Society of Chemistry
Creative Commons BY license

Chem. Sci., 2022,13, 5014-5026

The role of structural order in heterogeneous ice nucleation

G. C. Sosso, P. Sudera, A. T. Backes, T. F. Whale, J. Fröhlich-Nowoisky, M. Bonn, A. Michaelides and E. H. G. Backus, Chem. Sci., 2022, 13, 5014 DOI: 10.1039/D1SC06338C

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