Scientists have predicted a new phase of superionic ice, a special form of ice that could exist on Uranus and Neptune. Superionic ice is an in-between state of matter that cannot be related to anything known—that’s why it’s so interesting. Unlike water or regular ice, superionic ice is made up of water molecules that have dissociated into charged atoms called ions, with the oxygen ions locked in a solid lattice and the hydrogen ions moving like the molecules in a liquid. The research revealed an entirely new type of superionic ice that the investigators call the P21/c-SI phase, which occurs at pressures even higher than those found in the interior of the giant ice planets of our solar system. Two other phases of superionic ice thought to exist on the planets are body-centered cubic superionic ice (BCC-SI) and close-packed superionic ice (CP-SI).
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