John Keith and collaborators discovered a liquid polymer capable of freezing water at room temperature

John Keith and collaborators discovered the unique behavior of a liquid polymer capable of freezing water at room temperature. When a particular polymer—known as polyoxacyclobutane (POCB)— is mixed with water, it raises the mixture’s freezing point from 32 degrees Fahrenheit to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The reaction is not altogether unprecedented. Mixing certain metals in specific proportions can create alloys that have higher melting points than the individual metals. Because alloys are comprised of at least two differently sized atoms, favorable combinations of atoms can weave together to make strong chemical bonds that counteract the second law of thermodynamics.

Keith and colleagues used computer modeling to find a stable hydrate structure where water molecules thread themselves throughout the polymer to form hydrogen bonds that hold the material together like tiny zippers. 

Their findings are published in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal Macromolecules (DOI:10.1021/acs.macromol.8b00239).

Written by Matt Cichowicz.

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