So Alexander Rosu-Finsen, a postdoctoral scientist in Dr. Salzmann’s research group and the lead creator of the Science paper, began smashing up ice. The water ice was first chilled in liquid nitrogen to minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit after which placed in a container together with steel balls. A machine then shook the ice and steel balls, still chilled at ultracold temperatures, backwards and forwards at 20 times per second, pulverizing the ice into tiny bits, a process generally known as ball milling.
Consider it as a high-tech cocktail shaker.
Dr. Rosu-Finsen then opened the container.
“Lo and behold, something completely unexpected happened,” said Dr. Rosu-Finsen, who’s now an associate editor on the journal Nature Reviews Chemistry.
The white material inside looked like what one would expect smashed-up ice to seem like, but it surely had been transformed.
The fabric was now denser, and far of the crystalline structure had been destroyed, producing an amorphous material. The density, nonetheless, didn’t match the already known high- and low-density amorphous ices. Intriguingly, it fell in between; indeed, it was almost the exact same density as liquid water. Until now, the entire solid types of ice, crystalline or amorphous, were either significantly denser or less dense than liquid water.
The researchers named it medium-density amorphous ice, or MDA.
The banging of the steel balls applied a shearing force on the ice crystals, enough to knock the water molecules out of their crystal positions, allowing them to be packed more tightly.
“It’s really cool,” said Marius Millot, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California who led the experiment that created superionic water. “What it tells us is that there’s still a variety of things that we don’t understand.”