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The Geometry of Water Veins and Nodes in Polycrystalline Ice

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Water in polycrystalline ice at its melting point forms a system of veins at the three-grain junctions. The veins join together at nodes, which are the four-grain junctions. The shape of a node, a tetrahedron with non-spherical faces and open corners, is determined completely by the dihedral angle for water in contact with a grain boundary. Using the observed value for this angle, namely 33.6°, the paper computes the tetrahedral shape. This is a surface-tension problem with initially unknown boundaries. The result shows that the ratio of vein volume to node volume is R = 0.072 l/d, where l is the average length of a vein between two nodes, and d is the vein diameter measured between edges. For example, in a specimen of ice grown from the melt in the laboratory R was 18.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Physics, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 ITL, England

Publication date: January 1, 1989

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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