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Laser experiment hints at weird in-between ice

The odd state of matter may be found within icy planets like Neptune and Uranus

11:00am, February 5, 2018
illustration of superionic ice

ICING OUT   An unusual form of ice is made of a solid lattice of oxygen ions (circles in this illustration) through which hydrogen ions travel freely (pink trails), like a liquid. Signs of the strange substance, known as superionic ice, showed up in a laser experiment.

A proposed form of ice acts like a cross between a solid and a liquid. Now, a new study strengthens the case that the weird state of matter really exists.

Hints of the special phase, called superionic ice, appeared in water ice exposed to high pressures and temperatures, researchers report February 5 in Nature Physics. Although such unusual ice isn’t found naturally on Earth, it might lurk deep inside frozen worlds like Uranus and Neptune (SN Online: 3/5/12).

Normal ice is composed of water molecules, each made of an oxygen atom bonded to two hydrogen atoms. As water freezes, those molecules link up to form a solid. But superionic ice is made up of ions, which are atoms with a positive or negative electric charge. Within the material, hydrogen ions flow freely through a solid crystal of oxygen

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