The researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have created something they named ‘supersonic ice’, subsequently dubbed Ice XVIII, and it sounds like something out of a Science Fiction novel.
It’s strange for one thing because it can only exist at very high temperatures: around 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (around 2,760 Celsius) at very extreme pressures around 4 million times the Earth’s atmospheric pressure.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Nature, on May 8th. In it, they talk about how they come across creating ice XVIII and how they used half a dozen laser beams that created shock waves that increased in intensity until they flash-froze small 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,” Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Physicist and Co-Lead author of the study, Marius Millot, has said about their work.
A belief exists that this form of frozen water is present all across the Universe, including on Neptune and Uranus and, if this hypothesis is true, this anti-ice, so to speak, might actually prove to be quite abundant across the Cosmos.
“Because water ice at Uranus’ and Neptune’s interior conditions has a crystalline lattice, we argue that superionic ice should not flow like a liquid such as the fluid iron outer core of the Earth,” Millot went on to say “Rather, it’s probably better to picture that superionic ice would flow similarly to the Earth’s mantle, which is made of solid rock, yet flows and supports large-scale convective motions on the very long geological timescales. This can dramatically affect our understanding of the internal structure and the evolution of the icy giant planets, as well as all their numerous extrasolar cousins.”