2023 journal article

An atomically smooth container: Can the native oxide promote supercooling of liquid gallium?


By: I. Joshipura n, C. Nguyen*, C. Quinn, J. Yang n, D. Morales n, E. Santiso n, T. Daeneke*, M. Dickey n

co-author countries: Australia 🇦🇺 United States of America 🇺🇸
Source: ORCID
Added: March 24, 2023

Metals tend to supercool—that is, they freeze at temperatures below their melting points. In general, supercooling is less favorable when liquids are in contact with nucleation sites such as rough surfaces. Interestingly, bulk gallium (Ga) can significantly supercool, even when it is in contact with heterogeneous surfaces that could provide nucleation sites. We hypothesized that the native oxide on Ga provides an atomically smooth interface that prevents Ga from directly contacting surfaces, and thereby promotes supercooling. Although many metals form surface oxides, Ga is a convenient metal for studying supercooling because its melting point of 29.8°C is near room temperature. Using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), we show that freezing of Ga with the oxide occurs at a lower temperature (−15.6 ± 3.5°C) than without the oxide (6.9 ± 2.0°C when the oxide is removed by HCl). We also demonstrate that the oxide enhances supercooling via macroscopic observations of freezing. These findings explain why Ga supercools and have implications for emerging applications of Ga that rely on it staying in the liquid state.