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New superionic ice phase could shed more light on icy giant cores

9 May 2019, 10:25 UTC
New superionic ice phase could shed more light on icy giant cores
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By using shock waves to simultaneously compress and heat water to pressures of up to 400 gigapascals and temperatures of 3000 kelvin, researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and the University of Rochester in New York say they have produced a new phase of solid superionic ice. The ice XVIII, as it has been named, is made up of liquid-like hydrogen ions (protons) diffusing through a solid lattice of oxygen atoms. Such superionic ice is thought to form a large fraction of the interiors of the planets Uranus and Neptune and the new work could help us better understand the structure of these icy giants and perhaps even shed more light on their complex magnetic fields.
American physicist Percy Bridgman was the first to discover five solid water phases in 1912 and we now know of more than 17 crystalline and several amorphous ice structures. This unique behaviour of water partly comes from its weak intermolecular hydrogen bonds.
The LLNL team of scientists documented for the first time the existence of a solid lattice of oxygens with a face-centered-cubic (fcc) structure in superionic water ice. Credits: Millot, Coppari, Hamel (LLNL) – Picture by J. Russell. (From Left ...

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