Drop freezing: fine detection of contaminants by measuring the tip angle


In this Letter, we show that the shape of a freezing drop of water can be sensitive to the presence of impurities. We measure the tip angle of water drops frozen on a cold plate. The fine changes in tip angle are robustly captured by our image analysis method, which shows a deviation from that of pure water in solutions with salt (NaCl), polymer (PEG) and surfactant (TTAB) starting at concentrations of 10−6, 10−4 and 10−6 M respectively. The method could be adapted into a portable water purity tester, but the work also highlights the complexity of water freezing as it is influenced by trace concentrations of impurities.

Applied Physics Letters