There are science experiments that showed a new phase of water, superionic water, with properties of both liquid and solid, obtained under extreme heat and pressure. As it is quite unlikely to create in on Earth as would rapidly decompress and explode, the researchers turned their attention between Neptune and Uranus and utilized high-energy lasers.
Scientists were always interested in the formation and evolution of ice giant planets and supersonic ice could be just the key. Assisted by lasers and x-rays they finally managed to produce and measure this type of ice in their labs. Using new methods to analyze its atomic structure it was noticed that inside the superionic ice the hydrogen atoms move very quickly similar to a liquid through solid oxygen – only crystal.
Utilizing the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics’ Omega, the researchers pressed water molecules between 2 diamonds and then shot it with the six high-powered beams in a 15 nanosecond-long sequence. As result shock waves were produced in the middle of the diamonds, compressing the water particles to pressures similar to the once found at the core of our planet and the temperatures noticed during the experiments were almost half of the ones believed to be in the center of the Earth. Unlike common knowledge, ice is not necessarily to be cold at high temperature if the pressure exerted on it is high as well. Simply put, at very high pressures water can turn into ice at temperatures one will assume that would transform into gas or liquid.
In order to assess the new structure, right after the laser beam, the sample was shot with x-rays. To make sure no uncertain detection signature, the scientists had to measure rapidly the sample after it got generated.
In a press release from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, study author Federica Coppari asserted that the biggest challenge was to compress water to specific extreme pressures and temperatures while also recording the process at the atomic level and this required new methods of experimentation.
As per the study published in Nature, the authors are confident that the study is confirming the theory of the superionic water proposed 30 years ago.
What’s more, their experiments were effective. As per Coppari, there are other different bits of evidence proving the existence of superionic ice. Be that as it may, x-ray diffraction estimations are a decisive testimony. The scientists participating into this projects have suggested naming their ice XVIII.
The studies did not end here and they will continue to perform other experiments at higher temperatures and pressures the totality of superionic ice’s qualities and grasp its process of formation.
Why is important to study this new type of ice? Because if indeed superionic ice makes the bulk of the mass between Uranus and Neptune, as Jonathan Fortney, director of the Other Worlds Laboratory at the University of California from Santa Cruz believes, then scientists will have to reconsider their concepts on how heat flows and cools over time.
Accustomed to our day to day reality it is indeed fascinating that beyond our world there are other states of matter with different properties and therefore unimaginable realms and experiences.
Patrick Supernaw is the lead editor for Great Lakes Ledger. Patrick has written for many publications including The Huffington Post and Vanity Fair. Patrick is based in Ottawa and covers issues affecting his city. In addition to his severe hockey addiction, Pat also enjoys kayaking and can often be found paddling the Rideau Canal. Contact Pat here