Synchrotron X-ray diffraction investigation of the anomalous behavior of ice during freezing of aqueous systems

Publication Title

Journal of Physical Chemistry B (Letters)

Publication Date


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synchotron X-ray diffraction, aqueous systems


Chemistry | Physics


Simple aqueous systems, i.e., phosphate-glycine buffers and pure water, were studied at subambient temperatures by X-ray difractometry using a high-intensity synchrotron radiation source at the Advanced Photon Source of Argonne National Laboratory. Complex X-ray diffraction (XRD) patterns, with two or more poorly resolved peaks in place of each of the four diagnostic peaks of hexagonal ice, 100, 002, 101, and 102, referred as “splitting”, were observed in the majority of cases. The splitting of up to 0.05 Å (d-spacing) was detected for 100, 002, and 101 peaks, whereas 102 peak was less affected. Deformation of the lattice of hexagonal ice, probably due to local stress created on the ice/ice or ice/container interface during water-to-ice transformation, is proposed as a possible mechanism for the observed splitting of XRD peaks. Using molecular modeling, it was estimated that the observed shifts in the peak positions are equivalent to applying a hydrostatic pressure of 2-3 kbars. The splitting can be used to quantify stresses during freezing, which could improve our understanding of the role of water-to-ice transformation on the destabilization of proteins and other biological systems.