Almost As Strange as Fiction

The discovery of a new, more solid, superionic phase of water, made me think of Kurt Vonnegut, who in his novel Cat’s Cradle imagined an ultimately deadly state of water he called ice-nine, which was solid at room temperature. Fortunately the real stuff requires vastly greater temperature and pressure than found on the Earth’s surface:

One lesser known phase of water is the superionic phase, which is considered an “ice” but exists somewhere between a solid and a liquid: while the oxygen atoms occupy fixed lattice positions as in a solid, the hydrogen atoms migrate through the lattice as in a fluid. Until now, scientists have thought that there was only one phase of superionic ice, but scientists in a new study have discovered a second phase that is more stable than the original. The new phase of superionic ice could make up a large component of the interiors of giant icy planets such as Uranus and Neptune.

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