Scientists discover a new form of ice

Scientists have discovered a new type of ice that neither floats nor sinks.

This advance could make it possible to learn more about how the oceans of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter were formed.

This new type of ice is amorphous, meaning that unlike normal crystalline ice, whose molecules are organized in a pattern of its own, its molecules are disorganized and more like those of a liquid.

The molecular structure of MDA ice (left) and that of crystalline ice (right)

Courtesy – Cambridge University

The molecular structure of MDA ice (left) and that of crystalline ice (right)

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and University College London used a technique called ‘ball milling’ which involves breaking crystalline ice into small particles using metal balls in a steel container.

Rather than recovering small chunks of crystalline ice, they ended up with amorphous ice.

They gave the name “medium density amorphous ice” (MDA) to their discovery.

This is the third time that a type of amorphous ice has been discovered, but it is the first time that it has been observed at medium density.

“Our discovery of MDA raises several questions about the very nature of liquid water, and therefore understanding precisely its atomic structure is very important,” says one of the authors of the study published in Science magazine, Dr Michael Davies. , in a press release.

The research team believes that MDA ice could exist in nature, specifically on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Scientists will now try to determine its role in the formation of icy lakes on these planets.

“Amorphous ice is known to be the most widespread form of water in the universe, continues the researcher. The question now is how much is MDA and how geophysically active MDA ice is.”

This research could help to learn more about how ice caps form and whether the conditions found there could be conducive to the development of life.