Scientists create bizarre form of hot ‘superionic ice’ using powerful lasers


Hot ice that can remain frozen at thousands of degrees of heat has been created by scientists.

One of the most powerful lasers on the planet was used to make the bizarre creation, which could teach us more about the structure of giant ice planets like Uranus and Neptune.

Scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used a range of lasers to drive large concentrations of shockwaves towards a small quantity of water. Their findings were published in Nature.

The pressure from these shockwaves compressed and heated the water sample, which forced it to freeze into a heated “superionic” water ice phase.

It’s thought that this hot ice substance makes up large parts of icy planets, where similar processes occur naturally underneath the surface.

Superionic water ice was first predicted to exist in 1998 and the researchers who took part in this recent study wanted to find out the atomic structure of the unusual substance.

Physicist Federica Coppari said: “We wanted to determine the atomic structure of superionic water but, given the extreme conditions at which this elusive state of matter is predicted to be stable, compressing water to such pressures and temperatures and simultaneously taking snapshots of the atomic structure was an extremely difficult task, which required an innovative experimental design.”

The scientists used X-rays to get an image of how the elements in water changed under pressure to form the hot water ice in just a few billionths of a second.

This is the first time the atomic structure of the substance has been identified and the researchers claim that it can “dramatically affect our understanding of the internal structure and the evolution of the icy giant planets.”