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UNLV research team discovers new form of ice

ice file photo
David Goldman, AP

Thought when it came to ice, there's just ice? Think again: Researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas discovered a new form of ice, they announced last week.

There are 20 known solid forms of ice. The team behind UNLV's Nevada Extreme Conditions Lab pioneered a new method for "measuring the properties of water under high pressure," they said. "The water sample was first squeezed between the tips of two opposite-facing diamonds—freezing into several jumbled ice crystals. The ice was then subjected to a laser-heating technique that temporarily melted it before it quickly re-formed into a powder-like collection of tiny crystals."

By raising the pressure and hitting it with a laser, the team observed a transition into a known cubic phase, Ice-VII, then to the new phase, Ice-VIIt, before turning back to a known phase of Ice-X.

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The ice form isn't likely to be found on earth, but rather within the earth's mantle, as well as in large moons, according to a media release from UNLV.

“[Zach Grande, a UNLV Ph.D. student]'s work has demonstrated that this transformation to an ionic state occurs at much, much lower pressures than ever thought before,” UNLV physicist Ashkan Salamat said. “It’s the missing piece, and the most precise measurements ever on water at these conditions.”

The findings were published on March 17 in Physical Review B.


Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the online editor for Nevada Public Radio. She curates content on, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.