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Writer Fuel: Scientists Make Ice That’s As Dense as Water

medium-density amorphous ice
Image credit: Alexander Rosu-Finsen, Christoph Salzmann

Using ultracold temperatures and some steel ball bearings, scientists have created a brand-new, bizarre form of ice that has the same density of liquid water.

The ice, known as medium-density amorphous ice, fits into a gap in the annals of frozen water that scientists weren’t sure would ever be filled. Unlike the crystalline ice that forms naturally on Earth, the newly created ice doesn’t have an organized molecular structure. Instead, its molecules are in a chaotic mismatch, more like glass — a state known as amorphous. Other types of amorphous ice have been made before, but they’ve been either much less dense or far denser than liquid water. This new Goldilocks version of amorphous ice is right in the middle, almost exactly matching liquid water’s density, researchers explained in a new study published in the journal Science today (Feb. 2).

“It’s something completely new,” said study senior author Christoph Salzmann (opens in new tab), a professor of physical and materials chemistry at University College London.

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