Scientists create a new type of ice that doesn’t sink or float

The discovery could also shed light on possible life beyond Earth by providing clues about how the oceans of Saturn and Jupiter’s moons are shaped.

Scientists from University College London (UCL) and Cambridge University have created a new type of ice that neither floats nor sinks — and more closely resembles a liquid than frozen water.

The discovery could also shed light on possible life beyond Earth by providing clues about how the oceans of Saturn and Jupiter’s moons are shaped. Some scientists believe that extraterrestrial organisms might exist in these oceans.

The ice researchers created was amorphous. This means its molecules are in a disorganised form rather than neatly arranged as in ordinary, crystalline ice.

The researchers called their discovery MDA (medium-density amorphous ice). It more closely resembles liquid water than any other forms of ice.

As amorphous is able to store and release a lot of energy, the theory goes that it could have a potential link to alien life.

Researchers achieved their results by vigorously shaking a jar of ordinary ice with steel balls at -200°C .

Rather than creating small bits of ordinary ice, the experiment yielded the new amorphous form.

Co-author of the research, Professor Andrea Sella of UCL. likened the result to “a stop-motion kind of water”. He said their finding was “unexpected” and “quite amazing”.

Senior author of the study, Professor Christoph Salzmann of UCL, said “Water is the foundation of all life. Our existence depends on it, we launch space missions searching for it, yet from a scientific point of view it is poorly understood.

“We know of 20 crystalline forms of ice, but only two main types of amorphous ice have previously been discovered, known as high-density and low-density amorphous ices.

“There is a huge density gap between them and the accepted wisdom has been that no ice exists within that density gap.”

Scientists will now work to understand how much of the water in the universe is MDA and how geophysically active the substance is.

Their research has been published in the journal Science.

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