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The most common water type is more bizarre than you would think

If someone asked you what types of water you know, it would be difficult to answer – or rather the opposite, it would be way too easy, right? Because the answer would be ‘only one’, what we all know as WATER. Why, is there any other type of water? If we approach the question in terms of its state, we all know from our studies and experience that water is a liquid, so therefore it can also be a gas, a fluid or a solid, but these states can change when we cool or heat materials.

But what would a scientist’s answer to this be? Researchers know much more about water than we would imagine, and they have produced new findings, which makes this fluid more exciting than we have ever thought. We also know a lot of things about it; for example, we know that the Earth and the human body are mostly made up of water, that it is essential for life, that it is the best thirst-quenching drink; we know the fact that purified, filtered water is healthy, just as we know that frozen crystals take beautiful shapes if the water is crystal clear.


The miracle of the water droplet shot into pieces


Researchers at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in Brighton, New York, recently made a new discovery. In their research, they targeted a water droplet with the world’s most powerful laser to be the first to observe how water behaves under such extreme conditions.


But what actually happened after they used the laser beam? The beam created a shock wave that raised the pressure of the water to millions of atmospheres and its temperature to thousands of degrees. At that moment, the droplet was x-rayed and, as they expected, scientists saw something which we, in turn, would not have expected.


Ice from the heat? Excuse me, what?


As non-professionals, we would think that the water droplet immediately became gaseous and evaporated. However, quite the opposite happened, the atoms froze solid and formed crystalline ice. Yes, heat turned the water droplet into ice.


The scientists were not surprised by this, as the result of previous research had already proved the existence of the so-called superionic ice. In this new phase of bizarre attributes, water appears as black, hot ice that is four times heavier than an ordinary ice cube.


The most common water type is a new crystal


Researchers argue that this superionic ice is the most common type of water on the planet, including its liquid form in the oceans. Since previously, researchers had already found many new types of ice, this superionic ice was to be named ‘ice XVIII’.


However, compared to other already known water ice types, here comes a twist in the story. In contrast to water ice made up of intact water molecules, where an oxygen atom is attached to two hydrogens, some water molecules disintegrate in the superionic ice. It is semi-solid, semi-liquid, in which the oxygen atoms form a cube-shaped lattice, but the hydrogen atoms diffuse freely and flow as a liquid through the rigid cage of oxygen. Scientists argue that this superionic ice is likely not a new phase of the water but rather a new state of the matter.



Ice giants in space

According to research, many exoplanets of ice giant size feature the temperature and pressure conditions necessary for the development of superionic ice. This suggests that this material may often occur inside icy worlds across the entire galaxy.


But none of the planets is exclusively made up of water in either state. They also contain chemical elements such as methane and ammonia. The extent to which superionic behaviour occurs in nature depends on whether these phases also exist when water is mixed with other substances. This is not yet clear, although other researchers argue that superionic ammonia should also exist.



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