On thin ice: surface order and disorder during pre-melting

C. L. Bishop, D. Pan, L. M. Liu, G. A. Tribello, A. Michaelides, E. G. Wang, B. Slater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


The effect of temperature on the structure of the ice Ih (0001) surface is considered through a series of molecular dynamics simulations on an ice slab. At relatively low temperatures (200K) a small fraction of surface self-interstitials (i.e. admolecules) appear that are formed exclusively from molecules leaving the outermost bilayer. At higher temperatures (ca. 250 K), vacancies start to appear in the inner part of the outermost bilayer exposing the underlying bilayer and providing sites with a high concentration of the dangling hydrogen bonds. Around 250-260 K aggregates of molecules formed on top of the outermost bilayer from self-interstitials become more mobile and have diffusivities approaching that of liquid water. At similar to 270-280 K the inner bilayer of one surface noticeably destructures and it appears that at above 285 K both surfaces are melting. The observed disparity in the onset of melting between the two sides of the slab is rationalised by considering the relationship between surface energy and the spatial distribution of protons at the surface; thermodynamic stability is conferred on the surface by maximising separations between dangling protons at the crystal exterior. Local hotspots associated with a high dangling proton density are suggested to be susceptible to pre-melting and may be more efficient at trapping species at the external surface than regions with low concentrations of protons thus potentially helping ice particles to catalyse reactions. A preliminary conclusion of this work is that only about 10-20 K below the melting temperature of the particular water potential employed is major disruption of the crystalline lattice noted which could be interpreted as being "liquid", the thickness of this film being about a nanometre.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-292
Number of pages16
JournalFaraday Discussions
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Cite this