Identification of a common ice nucleus on hydrophilic and hydrophobic close-packed metal surfaces

Pengcheng Chen, Qiuhao Xu, Zijing Ding, Qing Chen, Jiyu Xu, Zhihai Cheng, Xiaohui Qiu, Bingkai Yuan, Sheng Meng, Nan Yao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Establishing a general model of heterogeneous ice nucleation has long been challenging because of the surface water structures found on different substrates. Identifying common water clusters, regardless of the underlying substrate, is one of the key steps toward solving this problem. Here, we demonstrate the presence of a common water cluster found on both hydrophilic Pt(111) and hydrophobic Cu(111) surfaces using scanning tunneling microscopy and non-contact atomic force microscopy. Water molecules self-assemble into a structure with a central flat-lying hexagon and three fused pentagonal rings, forming a cluster consisting of 15 individual water molecules. This cluster serves as a critical nucleus during ice nucleation on both surfaces: ice growth beyond this cluster bifurcates to form two-dimensional (three-dimensional) layers on hydrophilic (hydrophobic) surfaces. Our results reveal the inherent similarity and distinction at the initial stage of ice growth on hydrophilic and hydrophobic close-packed metal surfaces; thus, these observations provide initial evidence toward a general model for water-substrate interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5813
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


Dive into the research topics of 'Identification of a common ice nucleus on hydrophilic and hydrophobic close-packed metal surfaces'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this