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2012 News in Brief



Carbon dioxide makes ice crystals more apt to fracture

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ice fractureNew research by Professor Markus Buehler and doctoral student Zhao Qin on the fracture mechanism of ice shows that ice cracks more easily when exposed to carbon dioxide. Using a series of atomistic-level computer simulations to analyze the dynamics of molecules, they found that carbon dioxide forms hydrogen bonds with ice at a crack boundary, then breaks those bonds as it moves toward the tip of the crack. When bonds break near the crack tip, the energy released weakens the ice and makes it more apt to fracture. The research could be used to study ice fracture in other chemical environments or even be scaled up and incorporated into models of glacier dynamics. A paper on this work appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.