Researchers in London have discovered a nearly one-dimensional form of ice built from pentagons that could be used to seed clouds and cause rain.

Ice structures on the molecular level are less well understood than they are on the macroscale, especially in conditions such as exist in the higher atmosphere where ice forms on particles of dust.

Most ice is built around a hexagonal pattern, when bonds form between hydrogen atoms of adjacent water molecules. A snowflake is a typical result.

But, as London Centre for Nanotechnology researcher Dr. Angelos Michaelides tells Science Daily, "there is no a priori rule that hexagons should form."

"For the first time, we have shown that ice can build an extended one-dimensional chain structure entirely from pentagons and not hexagons," he adds.

Until now, researchers looking for materials with which to seed clouds had focused on those with surface that easily formed hexagonal patterns.

But Michaelides' experiments were conducted on a flat sheet of copper, showing that many more kinds of materials could be used.

"Other types of surfaces may be good too," said Michaelides.

The accompanying scientific paper was published Sunday in the journal Nature Materials.

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