Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory discovers Ice from the Cat’s Cradle

“We designed the experiments to compress the water so that it would freeze into solid ice, but it was not certain that the ice crystals would actually form and grow in the few billionths of a second that we can hold the pressure-temperature conditions”

Marius Millot, co-lead author on the paper on Ice XVIII, in a press release.

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have created a bizarre form of “superionic ice” they’ve dubbed ice XVIII. The findings, published in prestigious journal Nature on May 8, detail the creation of ice XVIII in greater detail.

It indicates that the water molecule is an interesting molecule, more than malleable than previously thought. Ice can exist in a number of different forms. This is because the hydrogen and oxygen atoms can be re-arrange into different configurations.

The team had demonstrated the existence of Ice XVIII via computer simulation, but this is the first time it has actually been created and recorded on Earth. Curiously, it has properties similar to those dreamed up in Kurt Vonnegut’s science fiction classic Cat’s Cradle.

In that novel, the he protagonist learns of a bizarre form of water known as “ice-nine”. It a solid at room temperature, but freezes water solid to ice once it comes in contact. As the story goes, all of the world’s oceans freeze over.

So what exactly is Ice XVIII?

Ice XVIII Discovery – Hidden in the bowels of our outer planets

The LLNL team used 6 giant laser beams to create shockwaves of increasing intensity that they then used to freeze tiny amount of water.

Ice XVIII is an extreme form of ice, albeit a different type of ice from the Kurt Vonnegut classic. It only exists at around 2760 degrees Celcius and extreme pressures of 405300000000 Pascals.

“Computer simulations have proposed a number of different possible crystalline structures for superionic ice. Our study provides a critical test to numerical methods,” said Marius Millot, co-lead author on the paper on Ice XVIII.

This form of frozen water may exist within icy planets such as Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Pluto. Given that most of the planets of the out ring of most solar systems would be far from their Suns.

It is theorized that this form of ice may be quite common across the cosmos, given the number of possible wandering rogue planets that may potentially exist.


So all that’s left to do is to go out and get some samples via a robotic mission…or at the very least confirm it existence in our backyard, as it may also lead to potentially more exciting discoveries in the planets in our Solar System.


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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.