A group of scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory received a unique form of ice, called superionic ice. The main feature of this ice is that it consists of a solid crystal lattice of oxygen atoms, around which the protons rotate. The most interesting is that the appearance of such a form of matter was predicted more than 30 years ago, and according to experts, this kind of ice can not exist on our planet, but it consists of the nuclei of ice planets like Uranus.
It is known that the ice consists of water, and water is an oxygen molecule connected to two molecules of hydrogen. When water freezes, its molecules can form crystal structures of arbitrary shape. The crystal lattice of "ordinary" ice consists of hexagons, but there are other forms of ice, for example, cubic ice, the lattice of which has, as it is easy to guess, the shape of the cube. But they are formed only under certain conditions, and it will not work to get them "in their own refrigerator." To obtain the same superionic ice, the scientists squeezed water molecules with the pressure created by two diamond platforms. Such a structure is called ice-VII.
Crystal structure of ice-VII
After compression of water molecules, scientists with a powerful laser created shock waves inside the crystal structure. Further, by increasing the strength of the shock waves, cavities were created inside the molecule between the diamond platforms. After receiving a new form of ice, scientists have studied some of its properties.
The formation of ice-VII by means of a laser
It turned out that the crystal lattice could retain its structure even in the temperature range from 2000 to 5000 Kelvin. Moreover, such ice could conduct an electric current. Thus, it was possible to prove that scientists succeeded in obtaining one of the forms of superionic ice, in which the crystal lattice consists of oxygen atoms, within which the nuclei of hydrogen atoms can move freely. According to Jonathan Fortney, one of the authors of the work,
"Such a form of ice can maintain stability under extreme conditions, which occur only in the central parts of planetary nuclei, such as Neptune or Uranus. Of course, in addition to the ice there is a fairly large number of other substances, for example, ammonia and methane. In time, we will try to find out whether stable superionic ice can exist in the presence of these substances. "