Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ice created in nanoseconds by Sandia's Z machine

19.03.2007
Not expected at your local 7-Eleven anytime soon

Sandia’s huge Z machine, which generates termperatures hottter than the sun, has turned water to ice in nanoseconds. However, don’t expect anything commercial just yet: the ice is hotter than the boiling point of water.

"The three phases of water as we know them — cold ice, room temperature liquid, and hot vapor — are actually only a small part of water’s repertory of states," says Sandia researcher Daniel Dolan. "Compressing water customarily heats it. But under extreme compression, it is easier for dense water to enter its solid phase [ice] than maintain the more energetic liquid phase [water]."

Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) laboratory.

In the Z experiment, the volume of water shrank abruptly and discontinuously, consistent with the formation of almost every known form of ice except the ordinary kind, which expands. (One might wonder why this ice shrank instead of expanding, given the common experience of frozen water expanding to wreck garden hoses left out over winter. The answer is that only "ordinary" ice expands when water freezes. There are at least 11 other known forms of ice occurring at a variety of temperatures and pressures.)

"This work," says Dolan, "is a basic science study that helps us understand materials at extreme conditions."

But it has potential practical value. The work, which appears online March 11 in Nature Physics, was undertaken partly because phase diagrams that predict water’s state at different temperatures and pressures are not always correct — a fact worrisome to experimentalists working at extreme conditions, as well as those having to work at distances where direct measurement is impractical. For example, work reported some months ago at Z demonstrated that astronomers’ ideas about the state of water on the planet Neptune were probably incorrect.

Closer at hand, water in a glass could be cooled below freezing and remain water, in what is called a supercooled state.

Accurate knowledge of water’s behavior is potentially important for Z because the 20-million-ampere electrical pulses the accelerator sends through water compress that liquid. Ordinarily, the water acts as an insulator and as a switch. But because the machine is being refurbished with more modern and thus more powerful equipment, questions about water’s behavior at extreme conditions are of increasing interest to help avoid equipment failure for the machine or its more powerful successors, should those be built.

One unforeseen result of Dolan’s test was that the water froze so rapidly. The freezing process as it is customarily observed requires many seconds at the very least.

The answer, says Dolan, seems to be that very fast compression causes very fast freezing. At Z and also at Sandia’s nearby STAR (Shock Thermodynamic Applied Research) gas gun facility, thin water samples were compressed to pressures of 50,000-120,000 atmospheres in less than 100 nanoseconds. Under such pressures, water appears to transform to ice VII, a phase of water first discovered by Nobel laureate Percy Bridgman in the 1930s. The compressed water appeared to solidify into ice within a few nanoseconds.

Ice VII has nothing to do with ice-nine, an entirely fictional creation of author Kurt Vonnegut in his 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle. There, a few molecules of the invented substance acts as a precipitating seed to cause an extended chemical reaction that freezes almost all of Earth’s water. Ice VII, on the other hand, only stays frozen as long as it is under enormous pressure. The pressure relenting, the ice changes back to ordinary water.

Nucleating agents, of course, are often used to hasten sluggish chemical processes, such as when clouds are "seeded" with silver iodide to induce rain. Dolan already had demonstrated, as a graduate physics student at Washington State University, that water can freeze on nanosecond time scales in the presence of a nucleating agent.

However, the behavior of pure water under high pressure remained a mystery.

Sandia instruments observed the unnucleated water becoming rapidly opaque — a sign of ice formation in which water and ice coexist — as pressure increased. At the 70,000 atmosphere mark and thereafter, the water became clear, a sign that the container now held entirely ice.

"Apparently it’s virtually impossible to keep water from freezing at pressures beyond 70,000 atmospheres," Dolan says.

For these tests, Z created the proper conditions by magnetic compression. Twenty million amperes of electricity passed through a small aluminum chamber, creating a magnetic field that isentropically compressed aluminum plates roughly 5.5 by 2 inches in cross section. This created a shockless but rapidly increasing compression across a 25-micron-deep packet of water.

The multipurpose Z machine, whose main use is to produce data to improve the safety and reliability of the US nuclear deterrent, has compressed spherical capsules of hydrogen isotopes to release neutrons — the prerequisite for controlled nuclear fusion and essentially unlimited energy for humanity.

Neal Singer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.sandia.gov
http://www.sandia.gov/news/resources/releases/2007/z-ice.html

Further reports about: Compression Dolan Machine atmosphere nanosecond pressure

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersensitive through quantum entanglement

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>