Structural characteristics of low-density environments in liquid water

Aswin V. Muthachikavil, Georgios M. Kontogeorgis, Xiaodong Liang, Qun Lei, Baoliang Peng

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The existence of two structural forms in liquid water has been a point of discussion for a long time. A phase transition between these two forms of liquid water has been proposed based on evidence from molecular simulations, and experiments have also been very recently able to track the proposed transition of the low-density liquid form to the high-density liquid form. We propose to use the average angle an oxygen atom makes with its neighbors to describe the structural environment of a water molecule. The distribution of this order parameter is observed to have two peaks with one peak at ∼109.5, corresponding to the internal angle of a regular tetrahedron, indicating tetrahedral arrangement. The other peak corresponds to an environment with a tighter arrangement of neighboring molecules. The distribution of O-O-O angles is decomposed into two skewed distributions to estimate the fractions of the two liquid forms in water. A good similarity is observed between the temperature and pressure trends of fractions of locally favored tetrahedral structure (LFTS) form estimated using the new order parameter and the reports in the literature, over a range of temperatures and pressures. We also compare the structural environments indicated by different order parameters and find that the order parameter proposed in this paper captures the structure of first solvation shell of the LFTS accurately.

Original languageEnglish
Article number034604
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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