Water, oh, water! You are full of surprises!

Water may be one of the most common compounds on Earth, but its unique properties continue to amaze.

A report out today shows that the freezing temperature of water can be controlled by the type of electric charge you put at the surface.

If you take supercooled water, which has no dust particles to begin crystallization, you can get the temperature down to about -12.5 degrees C. on average. If you apply a positive charge to the surface, that same water freezes at about -7 degrees. With a negative charge, it goes down to about -18 before freezing. This is really an amazing range.

Study coauthor Igor Lubomirsky of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel was quoted in today’s Science News:

“We are very, very surprised by this result. It means that by controlling surface charge, either positive or negative, you can either suppress ice formation or enhance ice formation.”

This also means that you can freeze water by heating it up — assuming that you change the charge on the water’s surface. Another experiment by the researchers bear this out.

Speculation about how to use these new-found properties are already beginning to pop up. One researcher suggests that it could have an application in the study of cloud formation, which is central to the issue of climate change.

Joe Palca of National Public Radio jumped on the story and does a good job in his piece for the radio.

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