Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Scientists Just Made 'Superionic Ice' That's Solid And Liquid at The Same Time


Scientists think they've finally discovered a totally new type of water ice called superionic water, water that is simultaneously a solid and a liquid, potentially teaching us much more about this most versatile of substances and leading to the development of new materials.

The idea of superionic water has actually been around for several decades – it's believed to exist inside the mantles of planets like Uranus and Neptune – but until now no one had managed to prove its existence in an experiment. Step forward the team of researchers behind the new study, who were able to produce superionic water from a high-pressure type of ice and a series of powerful laser pulses.

In superionic water, intense heat breaks the bonds between a water molecule's atoms, leaving a solid crystal structure of oxygen atoms, and a flow of hydrogen nuclei or ions in between them – creating both a solid and a liquid at the same time. "That's a really strange state of matter," Millot told Kenneth Chang at The New York Times. Now we know that superionic ice actually exists, it could help explain the rather off-centre magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune, a discrepancy that scientists have put down to shells of superionic ice inside their mantles.

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