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Gel-like ice is the lightest form of water ever discovered


· 每日跟讀單元 Daily English

The frosty cubes we pull from our freezers are just one of 17 possible types of ice, and an 18th type isn’t far from being made real.


Hexagonal ice, and the occasional cubic ice in our upper atmosphere, are the only two forms that occur naturally on Earth. Other ices might be found on exoplanets or in the atmospheres of the outer planets.


Under atmospheric pressure or higher, water molecules get squeezed and freeze into a solid denser than normal ice. But when the pressure drops below this, water molecules become a less-dense, lightweight crystal that’s more air than molecule – like an icy candy floss. So far, we only know of two kinds of low-density ice: space fullerenes and zeolitic ices. But lighter ice structures hadn’t been spotted until now.


Masakazu Matsumoto at Okayama University in Japan and his team played molecular Jenga to find this new type of ice, removing and reconfiguring existing zeolitic ice structures to make them lighter. They found more than 300 different nanoscale structures through computer simulations.


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