Credit: Georgia Institute of Technology
Scientists have demonstrated in simulations it is possible to turn liquid droplets of certain materials solid through electric-field-induced phase transformation.
ScienceDaily — Physicists have demonstrated in simulations that under the influence of sufficiently high electric fields, liquid droplets of certain materials will undergo solidification, forming crystallites at temperature and pressure conditions that correspond to liquid droplets at field-free conditions. This electric-field-induced phase transformation is termed electrocrystallization.
The study, performed by scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology, appears online and is scheduled as a feature and cover article in the 42nd issue of Volume 115 of the Journal of Physical Chemistry C.
"We show that with a strong electric field, you can induce a phase transition without altering the thermodynamic parameters," said Uzi Landman, Regents' and Institute Professor in the School of Physics, F.E. Callaway Chair and director of the Center for Computational Materials Science (CCMS) at Georgia Tech.
In these simulations, Landman and Senior Research Scientists David Luedtke and Jianping Gao at the CCMS set out first to explore a phenomenon described by Sir Geoffrey Ingram Taylor in 1964 in the course of his study of the effect of lightning on raindrops, expressed as changes in the shape of liquid drops when passing through an electric field. While liquid drops under field-free conditions are spherical, they alter their shape in response to an applied electric field to become needle-like liquid drops. Instead of the water droplets used in the almost decade-old laboratory experiments of Taylor, the Georgia Tech researchers focused their theoretical study on a 10 nanometer (nm) diameter liquid droplet of formamide, which is a material made of small polar molecules each characterized by a dipole moment that is more than twice as large as that of a water molecule.