Analysis of the effect of water activity on ice formation using a new thermodynamic framework
In this work a new thermodynamic framework is developed and used to investigate the effect of water activity on the formation of ice within supercooled droplets. The new framework is based on a novel concept where the interface is assumed to be made of liquid molecules "trapped" by the solid matrix. It also accounts for the change in the composition of the liquid phase upon nucleation. Using this framework, new expressions are developed for the critical ice germ size and the nucleation work with explicit dependencies on temperature and water activity. However unlike previous approaches, the new model does not depend on the interfacial tension between liquid and ice. The thermodynamic framework is introduced within classical nucleation theory to study the effect of water activity on the ice nucleation rate. Comparison against experimental results shows that the new approach is able to reproduce the observed effect of water activity on the nucleation rate and the freezing temperature. It allows for the first time a phenomenological derivation of the constant shift in water activity between melting and nucleation. The new framework offers a consistent thermodynamic view of ice nucleation, simple enough to be applied in atmospheric models of cloud formation.