American physicists from the University of Chicago have unexpectedly managed to obtain superionic ice under conditions far from the calculated ones. But there is no doubt – it is the bizarre ice-18, one of the 19 known states of ice, a new form of matter that cannot exist on Earth outside laboratory conditions. But somewhere in the center of ice giants, like the planet Neptune, it may well be commonplace.
The key criterion for the transition of water to superion ice is the formation of a crystal lattice of oxygen atoms. It is because of the lattice structure that the resulting substance is called ice, although in fact it is also due to it heating to a temperature of 6500 Kelvin and with a pressure of 20 GPa (gigapascals).
Previously, it was believed that to obtain superionic ice, one would need a starting pressure of at least 50 GPa, and preferably 100 GPa, so the American scientists did not expect too much from their experiment. They wanted to work out the methods of measurement, because at such values of pressure and temperature the error is often hundreds of degrees. The target in the form of a drop of water was placed in a diamond vise and began to heat with a powerful laser, when suddenly the phase transition of the substance was was recorded. It was superionic ice.
Observations of superionic ice immediately brought a number of surprises. For example, as described in the model, hydrogen atoms flickered chaotically between the holes in the crystal lattice. However, their activity was so great that even light hardly penetrated through this obstacle – the substance was, in fact, opaque. Another discovery was the effect of this movement of atoms on electromagnetic fields, which allows us to talk about superionic ice as a very active substance that could take part in the creation of the magnetosphere of other planets.
Scientists are excited – the new form of matter promises further experiments and discoveries.