Giant lasers crystallize water with shockwav…

Giant lasers crystallize water with shockwaves, revealing the atomic structure of superionic ice

Scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) used giant lasers to flash-freeze water into its exotic superionic phase and record X-ray diffraction patterns to identify its atomic structure for the very first time—all in just a few billionths of a second. The findings are reported today in Nature.

In 1988, scientists first predicted that waterwould transition to an exotic state of matter characterized by the coexistence of a solid lattice of oxygen and liquid-like hydrogen—superionic ice—when subjected to the extreme pressures and temperatures that exist in the interior of water-rich giant planets like Uranus and Neptune. These predictions remained in place until 2018, when a team led by scientists from LLNL presented the first experimental evidence for this strange state of water.

Now, the LLNL scientists describe new results. Using laser-driven shockwaves and in-situ X-ray diffraction, they observe the nucleation of a crystalline lattice of oxygen in a few billionths of a second, revealing for the first time the microscopic structure of superionic ice.

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