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The Phase Behavior of Supercooled Water: A Computational Perspective

This was a virtual seminar which took place on Monday 14th June 2021.


Water plays a central role in the physical and chemical processes that sustain life as we know it. Its ubiquity and importance notwithstanding, there remain major open questions concerning water's physical properties, which are anomalous by comparison to those of most other liquids. Examples include the fact the liquid, if sufficiently cold, expands when cooled and becomes less viscous when compressed. Water's oddities become more pronounced at low temperatures, especially in the supercooled regime, where the liquid is metastable with respect to crystallization. The existence of a phase transition between two liquid forms of water, terminating at a critical point under deeply supercooled conditions, has been proposed as a thermodynamically consistent way of interpreting experimental observations. After discussing the experimental evidence, I will provide a computational perspective on water's liquid-liquid transition and on metastable criticality. Computer simulation, powered by advanced sampling algorithms, has played an important role in defining the frontiers of knowledge on supercooled water's still incompletely understood phase behavior.


Professor Pablo Debenedetti
Princeton University

Pablo G. Debenedetti is the Dean for Research, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science, and a professor of chemical and biological engineering at Princeton University.[1] His research focuses on thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and computer simulations of liquids and glasses.