Scientists may have finally discovered a totally new type of water ice called superionic water, water that is simultaneously a solid and a liquid, which could teach us much more about this most versatile of substances and lead to the development of new materials.
According to experts, the idea of superionic water has actually been around for several decades and it is believed to exist inside the mantles of planets like Uranus and Neptune. However, none had until now been able to prove its existence in an experiment.
However, the team of researchers behind the new study, were able to produce superionic water from a high-pressure type of ice and a series of powerful laser pulses.
The combination was able to produce the kinds of temperatures and pressures that are not naturally available on earth, which has given us our first real glimpse of this mysterious water.
"These are very challenging experiments, so it was really exciting to see that we could learn so much from the data," said one of the team, physicist Marius Millot from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California.
"Especially since we spent about two years making the measurements and two more years developing the methods to analyse the data."
''Our work provides experimental evidence for superionic ice and shows that these predictions were not due to artefacts in the simulations, but actually captured the extraordinary behaviour of water at those conditions,'' said Dr Millot, The Independent reported.
While normal ice is made of molecules linked up to form a solid, superionic water ice consists of of ions – atoms carrying positive and negative charges. The structure of the ice consists of hydrogen ions flowing through a solid crystal made from oxygen ions.
''That's a really strange state of matter,'' Dr Millot told The New York Times.