Researchers Identify A New Type Of Ice

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New ice form has been found by NLV scientists, redefining the characteristics of water under extreme pressure. In the same way that carbon may create diamond or graphite under certain temperature and pressure circumstances, solid water (or ice) can produce a variety of solid solids. At least 20 types of ice are known to mankind, making water remarkable in this regard.

Under extreme strain, scientists at UNLV’s Nevada Extreme Conditions Lab developed an innovative technique for testing water’s characteristics. The water was first frozen into a mess of ice crystals by being pressed between the points of two diamonds pointing in opposing directions. This powder-like collection of small crystals was generated when the ice was heated with a laser, briefly melting it.

The scientists watched the water ice shift from a familiar cubic phase, Ice-VII, to the newly found intermediate phase, Ice-VIIt, before relocating into another recognized phase, Ice-X, by increasing the pressure and hitting it with the laser beam.

This novel ice phase is improbable to be found on the ground of Earth, but it is expected to be a prevalent constituent in the Earth’s mantle and in specific moons and planets beyond our solar system.

Research continues

To learn more about the possible presence of high-pressure water in the core of distant planets, the study team set out to investigate the phenomenon. To achieve this, Grande and UNLV physicist Ashkan Salamat used diamond anvil cells, a regular component in high-pressure physics, to insert a sample of water between the points of two round-cut diamonds. Scientists were able to duplicate pressures as great as those observed at the core of the Earth by exerting a little amount of force on the diamonds.

Scientists identified a unique composition of oxygen and hydrogen atoms known as Ice-VIIt by compressing the sample of water between the diamonds. Only by using the first of its kind laser-heating approach did researchers discover that the Ice-X transition happened at pressures almost three times lower than originally believed – at a mere 300,000 atmospheres. For decades, this transformation has been the subject of intense discussion in the community.