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SuperIonic Ice

By Krishang Agrawal


Superionic ice was first theorized by a group led by Univeristy of Sassari Chemistry professor Pierfranco Demontis in 1988. It was then detected by the researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California in 2018.

Superionic ice is a strange and fascinating substance that scientists have only recently discovered. Imagine a world where ice doesn’t melt at room temperature, but instead becomes a super-conductive liquid! That’s the world of superionic ice.

The Basics

To understand superionic ice, we first need to understand the two different forms of water: ice and liquid water.

Ice

Ice is the solid form of water, where the molecules are tightly packed together in a crystalline structure. Molecule of ice consists of a single oxygen atom covalently bonded to two hydrogen atoms, or H–O–H. Wait! Isn’t that the structure of a water molecule? Yes, it is. The formation of ice and water is controlled by the strength of hydrogen bonds between adjacent oxygen and hydrogen atoms; they both have th same chemical equation but different physical properties.



Water

Liquid water, on the other hand, is made up of randomly arranged molecules that can move and flow freely. This is the most researched chemical compound for its simple structure and its ability to dissolve innumerable substances. It is most famously referred as H2O.



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But what happens when you take water and put it under extremely high pressure and high temperatures? The result is superionic ice. In this state, the water molecules are still in a crystalline structure, but the hydrogen atoms move around freely, like they would in liquid water. This creates a unique material that is both solid and liquid at the same time!

This is the structure for superionic water. Superionic ice is still a subject to a lot of research and its structure is still not confirmed by the authorities due to its recent discovery.


Superionic ice is thought to exist in the icy cores of giant planets like Uranus and Neptune. The intense pressures and temperatures found in these planets’ cores is thought to be enough to turn the water into superionic ice. Scientists have also been able to create superionic ice in the lab by subjecting regular water to extreme pressures and temperatures.



This concept visualization of superionic ice inside the monstrous planet giants is completely theoretical and is yet to be completely understood.


Interesting! What are its properties?

  • One of the most interesting properties of superionic ice is its electrical conductivity. Because the hydrogen atoms are free to move around, they can carry electrical charges, making superionic ice a super-conductive material. This could have important implications for future technologies, such as energy storage and superconductors.

  • Other than this, it is also found to have Elastic property at certain temperatures.

  • It is somewhat responsible for the formation of unusual magnetic fields on poor Uranus and Neptune.

  • The irony of superionic ice being ulra hot and exist in the form of burning hot ice.

But what does superionic ice look like? Unfortunately, we can’t see it with the naked eye since it only exists under extreme conditions. However, scientists have been able to create computer simulations of what superionic ice might look like. These simulations show that it would have a beautiful, shimmering appearance, with the hydrogen atoms moving around like tiny sparks of light.

Enjoy some mesmerizing visualizations of what superionic ice might look like.


In summary, Superionic ice is a state of water where hydrogen atoms move freely in a crystalline structure, giving it both solid and liquid properties. This state of water is thought to exist in the icy cores of giant planets like Uranus and Neptune and also can be created in lab by applying extremely high pressure and temperature. Superionic ice also has unique electrical conductivity and scientists are still studying about its properties and uses in future technologies.

Superionic ice is a truly unique and mysterious substance that scientists are only just beginning to understand. Who knows what other strange and wonderful materials we might discover in the future? In the meantime, let’s raise a glass of water to superionic ice, the liquid-solid hybrid that is out of this world!


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