A new type of five-sided ice chain structure has the potential to be used to modify future weather patterns, according to researchers at the University of Liverpool.
Working with scientists from University College London and the Fritz-Haber Institut in Berlin, the team observed the structure while condensing water on a flat copper surface. Viewed at a nanoscale, the nascent ice showed a one-dimensional chain structure of pentagon-shaped rings, rather than the more common hexagonal formation seen in snowflakes.
The research team says the discovery could help develop new materials for seeding clouds and creating rain. The substances currently used for cloud seeding are designed to bind with hexagonal ice, but materials that bind to other structures such as the pentagonal form could also be used.
“Many important chemical reactions take place at interfaces so understanding the structure of water in these environments will allow scientists to make better models of these processes,” said Andrew Hodgson, from the University of Liverpool’s Surface Science Research Centre. “With a better understanding of how ice crystals form in the upper atmosphere, new and cheaper materials could now be developed that could be used across the globe to seed clouds and modify weather patterns.”