Life on Earth is synonymous with water and it is the most familiar and abundant compound on Earth. It can occur in all three states, that is solid, liquid and vapor state. Water forms as many as fifteen crystal structures of ice and the commonly found hexagonal ice being singlehandedly responsible for the fascinating variety of snowflakes.
However what is not easily seen but is omnipresent is the water which resides in microscopic pores. Actually a few monolayers of water is present on every surface around us even in the driest deserts and fills in every microscopic crevice or cracks in rocks. However not much is known about such microscopic water.
A team of researchers from The University of Manchester, the University of Ulm in Germany, and the University of Science and Technology of China have perfected a transparent nanoscale capillary to investigate the atomic structure of water trapped inside. The individual water molecules were seen with the aid of electron microscope and the nano capillary was made from Graphene. The walls of the capillary were one atom thick and did not obscure electron microscopy imaging.
The scientists found small square crystals of ice at room temperatures. To achieve this, the Graphene capillaries should be thin enough so that there are no more than three atomic layers of water. The water molecules formed a square lattice and were arranged in evenly spaced neat rows running perpendicular to each other. This is something which is quite different from water molecules which always formed little pyramidal structures inside all the previously known ices and not a flat square arrangement.
Scientists used computer simulation to find out how common this phenomenon is in nature. The results revealed that if the layer of water is thin enough, it can form square ice independently of an exact chemical makeup of confining walls of a nanopore. Thus it is likely that square ice is present widely on the molecular scale and at the tip of every microscopic crack or pore.