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Say Hello to Superionic Ice 

 September 11, 2020

By  Lexi Braicovich

At the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in Brighton, New York scientists blasted a droplet of water with the world’s most powerful laser which resulted in the water pressuring raising to millions of atmospheres. This was humanity’s first look into water put under extreme circumstances.

The x-rays showed that when the water was hit with that much power it didn’t go to a liquid or gas state but actually froze solid, creating crystalline ice. This experiment confirms the existence of “superionic ice.” Characteristics of superionic ice are that it’s black and hot, not what you’ll find in your household freezer and it weighs four times more than normal ice.  

Scientists believe this water exists in other parts of the universe, including on planets like Uranus and Neptune. As more hexagonal arrangements of water molecules are brought to light, they are numbered in the order they are discovered. With 17 already in the books, this claims the title of ice XVIII (18).  

What sets this discovery apart is the other 17 are the typical one oxygen atom linked to two hydrogen atoms which make intact water where superionic ice is part solid and part liquid. The oxygen atoms create a cubic lattice and the hydrogen atoms spill-free, glowing throughout the oxygen cages.  

Livia Bove, a physicist at France’s National Center for Scientific Research and Pierre and Marie Curie University said, “it’s not quite a new phase of water. It’s really a new state of matter, which is rather spectacular. 

Superionic ice has been a goal for scientists for years, wanting to see what happens when they push water beyond known ice phases.  

In an article from WIRED, they said, “under extreme pressure and heat, the simulations suggested, water molecules break. With the oxygen atoms locked in a cubic lattice, the hydrogens now start to jump from one position in the crystal to another, and jump again, and jump again.” 

Evidence suggests that this superionic ice could be a common occurrence in ice worlds throughout the galaxy. Now that scientists have seen the possibilities, they want to continue researching the world of superionic crystals. This is on its way to breaking many barriers in the field! 

Lexi Braicovich
Marketing Coordinator

Lexi Braicovich


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