Cosmic ice crystals reveal nanotech bonus

This latest finding of these useful properties could eventually lead to the design of nano sensors and switches. It is amazing how we can learn such useful information from so far away – Deskarati

A discovery of ice lava crystals with unusual expansion properties from volcanoes on Saturn and Neptunes moons has given scientists new insight into how nanotechnology may develop, and could inspire new meta-materials.

According to the researchers, the finding could lead to the development of new materials that can retain their structure in fluctuating temperatures, as the crystals made from methanol monohydrate posses the rare ability to shrink when heated and expand when compressed.

“What were interested in here is the arrangement of structural units in methanol monohydrate which cause [the crystals] to exhibit the weird elastic properties we observed,” said Dominic Fortes, a planetary geologist at University College London.

Fortes made the discovery, published in Science, while studying icy moons such as Neptune’s Triton, and observed the crystals using neutron scattering – a technique that allows the structure and dynamics of materials to be examined under different conditions at atomic or molecular levels.

Made from methanol monohydrate – a one to one mix of water and methanol and a key ingredient in outer solar system ice – the crystals revealed to the researchers that when heated at room pressure, they expand in one direction while shrinking in the other two. When heated under an even pressure, the crystals expanded in two directions, while compressing in the third.

This unexpected expansion elongating and thinning under uniform pressure is known as negative linear compressibility NLC. NLC materials are extremely rare with only around 15 known examples, and what causes this property is still relatively unknown.

via Cosmic ice crystals reveal nanotech bonus | COSMOS magazine.

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