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Scientists at the University of Cambridge have discovered that water in a one-molecule layer acts like neither a liquid nor a solid, and that it becomes highly conductive at high pressures.

Much is known about how "bulk water" behaves: it expands when it freezes, and it has a high boiling point. But when water is compressed to the nanoscale, its properties change dramatically.

By developing a new way to predict this unusual behavior with unprecedented accuracy, the researchers have detected several new phases of water at the molecular level.

Water trapped between membranes or in tiny nanoscale cavities is common—it can be found in everything from membranes in our bodies to geological formations. But this nanoconfined water behaves very differently from the water we drink.

Until now, the challenges of experimentally characterizing the phases of water on the nanoscale have prevented a full understanding of its behavior. But in a paper published in the journal Nature, the Cambridge-led team describe how they have used advances in to predict the phase diagram of a one-molecule thick layer of water with unprecedented accuracy.

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