Scientists discover new form of ice — the twentieth one so far


A team of scientists working in UNLV's Nevada Extreme Conditions Lab pioneered a new method for measuring the properties of water under high pressure. The water sample was first squeezed between the tips of two opposite-facing diamonds—freezing into several jumbled ice crystals. The ice was then subjected to a laser-heating technique that temporarily melted it before it quickly re-formed into a powder-like collection of tiny crystals.

By incrementally raising the pressure, and periodically blasting it with the laser beam, the team observed the water ice make the transition from a known cubic phase, Ice-VII, to the newly discovered intermediate, and tetragonal, phase, Ice-VIIt, before settling into another known phase, Ice-X. 

Zach Grande, a UNLV Ph.D. student, led the work which also demonstrated that the transition to Ice-X, when water stiffens aggressively, occurs at much lower pressures than previously thought.

I remembered Ice-Nine from Cat's Cradle (and the tribute song to it, above), but I didn't realize that it was both a real thing, and that it was far from the final form of ice. In the novel, Ice-Nine is potentially world destroying, and while I'm not sure about the deadly potential of this new Ice-X — or why it's called Ice-X and not Ice-XX, for that matter.

Researchers discover new form of ice [Natalie Bruzda /]

Pressure-driven symmetry transitions in dense H2O ice [Zachary M. Grande, C. Huy Pham, Dean Smith, John H. Boisvert, Chenliang Huang, Jesse S. Smith, Nir Goldman, Jonathan L. Belof, Oliver Tschauner, Jason H. Steffen, and Ashkan Salamat / Physics Review B]

Image: Public Domain via Pixabay