Home / News / World /  Scientists discover new type of ice, and it may change how we view water

The discovery of a brand-new kind of ice that resembles liquid water more than any other kind of ice previously identified could fundamentally alter how we think about water and all of its peculiarities.

In a procedure known as ball milling, the research team from University College London (UCL) and the University of Cambridge vigorously stirred regular ice with steel balls in a jar that had been frozen to -200 degrees Celsius for the study. The findings were published in the journal Science.

Instead of producing little pieces of regular ice, the procedure produced a novel amorphous type of ice that, in contrast to all previous known ices, had the same density as liquid water and had a condition that resembled water in solid form. Medium-density amorphous (MDA) ice is the name given to the new ice.

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The molecules of the recently-discovered ice are disorganised rather than perfectly ordered as they are in regular, crystalline ice, making it amorphous. The most common type of ice in space is amorphous ice, while being uncommon on Earth. This is due to the fact that ice lacks sufficient thermal energy in space's colder environment to form crystals.

Since tidal pressures from gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn may impose similar shear stresses on common ice as those caused by ball milling, the scientists hypothesised that MDA, which resembles a fine white powder, may exist inside ice moons of the outer solar system. 

The scientists also discovered that MDA released an incredible amount of heat when it was heated and re-crystallized, suggesting that it could cause tectonic vibrations and "icequakes" in the kilometre-thick layer of ice that covers moons like Jupiter's Ganymede.

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Scientists believe that water actually exists as two liquids at extremely low temperatures and that theoretically, at a certain temperature, both of these liquids could coexist, with one type floating above the other, as when mixing oil and water.

This theory is supported by the density gap between the known amorphous ices. In a computer simulation, this hypothesis has been supported, but not by an experiment. The validity of this concept may be questioned, according to the researchers, as a result of their latest study.

According to the researchers, the newly-discovered ice could be a solid representation of liquid water that is truly glassy, similar to how glass in windows is a solid representation of liquid silicon dioxide. Another possibility is that MDA is extensively sheared crystalline rather than glassy at all.

Sounak Mukhopadhyay
Sounak Mukhopadhyay, who also goes by the name Sounak Mukherjee, has been producing digital news since 2012. He's worked for the International Business Times, The Inquisitr, and Moneycontrol in the past. He's also contributed to Free Press Journal and TheRichest with feature articles. He covers news for a wide range of subjects including business, finance, economy, politics and social media. Before working with digital news publications, he worked as a freelance content writer.
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