(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers from the University of Nevada (USA) have discovered a new phase of ice that cannot exist on Earth, but may end up on distant worlds. The results of this study are published in Physical Review.
When the Europa Clipper mission arrives on Jupiter’s distant moon, it will look for water sources that are thought to be present below the surface in the form of ice. Before its launch, scientists discovered a new form of ice that could be present on these distant worlds.
Scientists studying the properties of water under high pressure have discovered a new phase dubbed Ice-VIIt, an intermediate and tetragonal phase between the cubic phase, Ice-VII and Ice-X.
It is unlikely that they will find this unique phase anywhere on the Earth’s surface, scientists say, but it could be part of the Earth’s mantle. It can also be found on large moons and water-rich planets outside the solar system.
As a result of the study, scientists have developed a new method for measuring the properties of water under high pressure. The researchers squeezed a water sample between the edges of two diamonds.
The scientists said that applying a small force to the diamonds allowed the researchers to recreate a pressure as high as at the center of the Earth.
The ice was then heated with a laser that melted it before it quickly turned into a powdery collection of tiny crystals.
“By gradually increasing the pressure and periodically blasting it with a laser beam, the team watched the water ice transition from the Ice-VII cubic phase to the newly discovered intermediate,” the team said in a statement.
By squeezing a sample of water between these diamonds, the scientists placed oxygen and hydrogen atoms into various devices.
The study not only helped discover a new phase of ice, but also showed that the transition to Ice-X occurred at a pressure almost three times lower than previously thought – at 300,000 atmospheres instead of 1 million.
The study allows understanding the behavior of high-pressure water that may be present in the interior of distant planets.
“Zack’s work demonstrated that this transformation into an ionic state occurs at much lower pressures than was ever thought before. This is the missing piece and the most accurate measurement ever taken on water under these conditions,” said physicist Ashkan Salamat.
A new study will help astronomers understand the composition of exoplanets. The researchers suggest that an icy phase of ice may exist in abundance in the crust and upper mantle of water-rich planets outside our solar system. This means that they can have habitable conditions.
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