Incipient ferroelectricity of water molecules confined to nano-channels of beryl
Water is characterized by large molecular electric dipole moments and strong interactions between molecules; however, hydrogen bonds screen the dipole-dipole coupling and suppress the ferroelectric order. The situation changes drastically when water is confined: in this case ordering of the molecular dipoles has been predicted, but never unambiguously detected experimentally. In the present study we place separate H 2 O molecules in the structural channels of a beryl single crystal so that they are located far enough to prevent hydrogen bonding, but close enough to keep the dipole-dipole interaction, resulting in incipient ferroelectricity in the water molecular subsystem. We observe a ferroelectric soft mode that causes Curie-Weiss behaviour of the static permittivity, which saturates below 10 K due to quantum fluctuations. The ferroelectricity of water molecules may play a key role in the functioning of biological systems and find applications in fuel and memory cells, light emitters and other nanoscale electronic devices.