Superionic water ice: A ‘new’ form of matter?

Superionic water ice: A ‘new’ form of matter?

2nd March 2018 By Carla Fuenteslópez

A new form of water, named superionic ice, was created by scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The substance, which is simultaneously solid and liquid, consists of a rigid lattice of oxygen atoms through which positively charged hydrogen ions move.

It was formed by compressing water between two diamonds and then using a laser; resulting in a spike in pressure of more than a million times than those found in Earth’s atmosphere while the temperature rose to thousands of degrees.

The high pressure maintains the oxygen atoms stacked in a fixed crystal alignment (i.e. a solid) while the hydrogen ions flow through (a liquid). This specific configuration makes superionic ice an electrical conductor, where the current is carried by positively charged ions rather than negatively charged electrons.

This form of water does not exist naturally on Earth but could be present in the mantles of certain planets like Neptune or Uranus.