May 10, 2019 08:51 AM EDT
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have created an extremely bizarre form of "superionic ice" which they have also dubbed as "ice XVIII". Its properties are quite extraordinary, one can even say that it is out of this world, something you'd only see in a sci-fi novel.
The term "ice XVIII" came from a science fiction classic called Cats Cradle which was written by American writer Kurt Vonnegut. The climax of the story is where all of the world's ocean freezes over when it came into contact with a bizarre form of water, invented by one of the characters, known as "ice-nine" which is solid at room temperature.
The "superionic ice" that researchers recently invented though doesn't freeze bodies of water that it comes into contact with, still, it is extremely extraordinary since it only exists at incredibly hot temperatures (around 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit) and extreme pressures 4 million times greater than Earth's atmospheric pressure. The creation of the "superionic ice" itself is done by using half a dozen giant laser beams to create shockwaves of increasing intensity that could flash-freeze tiny amounts of water.
"We designed the experiments to compress the water so that it would freeze into solid ice, but it was not certain that the ice crystals would actually form and grow in the few billionths of a second that we can hold the pressure-temperature conditions," said Marius Millot, co-lead author on the paper.
The science behind the experiment is complicated and it is explained in detail in Nature journal. Initially, the team demonstrated this form of ice via computer simulation. "Computer simulations have proposed a number of different possible crystalline structures for superionic ice. Our study provides a critical test to numerical methods." But this is the very first time they have actually created and imaged it on Earth.
The scientists further believed that the "superionic ice" exists throughout the cosmos, locked in cold and icy planets such as Neptune and Uranus.
A couple of years back, an article published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics Letters, cited the discovery if a Neptune-sized planet orbiting the nearby M-dwarf star GJ 436. The planet was close enough to its parent star thus it's extremely hot, above 250 degrees Celsius, but the intensity of gravity forces large quantities of liquid such as water from solid ice.
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