Source of Electrofreezing of Supercooled Water by Polar Crystals

Alik Belitzky, Eran Mishuk, David Ehre, Meir Lahav, Igor Lubomirsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Polar crystals, which display pyroelectricity, have a propensity to elevate, in a heterogeneous nucleation, without epitaxy, the freezing temperature of supercooled water (SCW). Upon cooling, such crystals accumulate an electric charge at their surfaces, which creates weak electric fields, <kV·cm-1, that are thousands of times lower than necessary for inducing homogeneous ice nucleation. By performing comparative freezing experiments of SCW on the same surfaces of three different polar crystals of amino acids, we demonstrate that preventing the formation of charge at these surfaces, by linking the two hemihedral faces of the polar crystals with a conducting paint, reduces the temperature of freezing by 2-5 °C. The temperature of ice nucleation was found to be correlated with the amount of the surface charge, thus implying that the surface-charge-induced interactions affect the interfacial water molecules that trigger freezing at a higher temperature. This finding is in contrast to previous hypotheses, which attribute the enhanced SCW freezing to the effect of the electric field or capture of external ions or particles. Possible implications of this mechanism of freezing are presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-46
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - 7 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Chemical Society.


The authors thank Prof. Andrew Rappe of the University of Pennsylvania and Prof. Leeor Kronik and Dr. Isabelle Weissbuch of the Weizmann Institute of Science for the helpful discussions. The authors express their appreciation to the Israeli Science Foundation (226/13) for funding this research. I.L. also wishes to acknowledge the assistance of the Nancy and Stephen Grand Research Center for Sensors and Security and the Gerhardt M.J. Schmidt Minerva Center of Supramolecular Architecture. This research is made possible in part by the historic generosity of the Harold Perlman Family.

FundersFunder number
Nancy and Stephen Grand Research Center for Sensors and Security
University of Pennsylvania
Weizmann Institute of Science
Israel Science Foundation226/13


    • Amino acids
    • Electric charge
    • Electrofreezing
    • Ice nucleation
    • Polar crystals
    • Pyroelectricity


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