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April 28 2013

New phase of water could dominate the interiors of Uranus and Neptune


While everyone is familiar with water in the liquid, ice, and gas phases, water can also exist in many other phases over a vast range of temperature and pressure conditions. One lesser known phase of water is the superionic phase, which is considered an "ice" but exists somewhere between a solid and a liquid: while the oxygen atoms occupy fixed lattice positions as in a solid, the hydrogen atoms migrate through the lattice as in a fluid. Until now, scientists have thought that there was only one phase of superionic ice, but scientists in a new study have discovered a second phase that is more stable than the original. The new phase of superionic ice could make up a large component of the interiors of giant icy planets such as Uranus and Neptune.

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