Wednesday, August 10

This very strange hot black ice hides the secrets of the magnetic fields of the gaseous planets (and of the geoengineering of the future)

A couple of years ago, a team of researchers from the Brighton Laser Energy Laboratory in New York, pointed one of the most powerful lasers in the world at a drop of water. Then, “they pulled the triggerThe device raised the water pressure to millions of atmospheres and its temperature to thousands of degrees. Right at that moment, scientists used X-rays to photograph the heart of the water drop and offer the first look to the water in those conditions.

What they found was ice. Black ice hot as hell. Yes, “hot ice” because, no matter how long it goes, water is still something fascinating that we don’t really get to know well. Better known by its technical name, super-ionic ice is a very rare form of ice that arises in environments of high temperatures and extreme pressure conditions.

Or not so extreme, because now another group of researchers has described the conditions to produce it and the results are really interesting because, we believe, This ice has a central role in the configuration of the planetary magnetic fields of the gas giants. The question now is whether we are about to take a substantial step in the future of geoengineering.

Ice among diamonds

The University of Chicago group created a diamond “cage” to put the water under high pressure and then use a laser to heat it to super-ionic ice. The result was as expected: “A solid oxygen lattice in a floating hydrogen ocean“The challenge was to understand it. At the end of the day, we are talking about a” new state of matter acts like a new material. “

And the most striking thing for the researchers was that they needed less extreme conditions than they had thought. In front of the 50 megapascals that they expected to need, the superionic ice appeared with less than half; with 20 megapascals. That pressure is also less than half of what a rocket has to develop when taking off. It is a surprise, then; but an interesting surprise.

What does all this have to do with magnetic fields?

That is the interesting thing. The Earth’s magnetic field (a basic element for allowing life on the planet) is caused by the internal movement of liquid iron in its core. That is not what we see on large gaseous planets like Uranus and Neptune. While ours is symmetric with respect to the axis of rotation; in the giants the fields appear off-center and erratic.

Until now it was suspected that the superionic ice had a lot to do with it. However, our knowledge of this state of the water was very limited and was still a theoretical model. Now the field of research opens and in the coming years we will be able to know much more about all this. On this and on how magnetic fields work at the planetary level in the real world: something we’re going to need if we want to see Mars flourish.

Image | Israel Palace