Scientists prove the existence of superionic water

Shane McGlaun - Feb 7, 2018
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Scientists prove the existence of superionic water

What you learned in science class in grade school might be changing with scientist having discovered what they think is a new type of ice water they have dubbed “superionic water.” The crazy thing about the new form is that it is both a solid and a liquid at the same time. The researchers think that the discovery could potentially lead to the development of new materials.

Researchers say that the idea of superionic water has been around for decades and this form of water is believed to be found inside the mantels of Uranus and Neptune. This is the first time that researchers have been able to prove the existence of the odd form of water in an experiment. In their experiment, the scientists used a high-pressure type of ice and a series of powerful laser pulses.

The combination of laser and ice created pressures that aren’t natural on Earth and created the first glimpse of the form of water here on Earth. Normally the pair of hydrogen atoms in a water molecule push apart when the water freezes, becoming more obvious. With superionic water, the researchers say that the intense heat from the laser breaks the bonds between those atoms inside the molecules and leaves behind a solid crystal structure of oxygen atoms with a flow of hydrogen nuclei or ions between them.

That results in both a solid and a liquid state in the water at the same time. The scientists had to exert a pressure a million times greater than seen naturally on Earth onto the water to create the superionic water. This required the water to be passed through two diamond layers to create a special ice called ice VII that is a solid at room temperature.

In a separate lab, a laser shock wave that lasted 10-20 billionths of a second was then sent through the ice to create the conditions needed to generate superionic water. The scientists say that knowing superionic ice exists helps to explain why the magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune are off-center. Scientists have theorized that off-center nature is due to sheets of superionic ice inside the mantles of the planets.

[UPDATE: An earlier version of this article included typos, which have been corrected]

SOURCE: Science Alert


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