Zen stones naturally placed atop pedestals of ice

A laboratory reproduction of the Zen stone phenomenon in a lyophilizer.
© Nicolas Taberlet / Nicolas Plihon

… a phenomenon finally understood.

Like a work of art enshrined in a museum, some stones end up on a pedestal of ice in nature, with no human intervention. This “Zen stone” phenomenon, named after the stacked stones in Japanese gardens, appears on the surface of frozen lakes, Lake Baikal (Russia) in particular.

These structures result from the phenomenon of sublimation, which causes a body, in this case ice, to change from solid to gaseous form without the intermediary form of a liquid. This was recently demonstrated by researchers from the CNRS and l’Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1,1 who reproduced the phenomenon in the laboratory.

They showed that the shade created by the stone hinders the solar irradiance that sublimates the ice, thereby sculpting the pedestal. This research has helped bring to light and understand a rare phenomenon of sublimation within a natural context on Earth. It was published in the journal PNAS during the week of 27 September 2021.

A video of the phenomenon reproduced in the laboratory is also available.


1 – The researchers are part of the Laboratoire de physique (CNRS/ENS de Lyon).

Journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
DOI: https://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.2109107118
Article Title: Sublimation-driven morphogenesis of Zen stones on ice surfaces

Media Contact

Elie Stecyna
Office: +33 1 44 96 51 26

Expert Contacts

Nicolas Plihon
Office: + 33 4 72 72 84 72

Nicolas Taberlet
Université Claude Bernard Lyon1
Office: + 33 4 72 72 85 32

Media Contact

Elie Stecyna

All latest news from the category: Physics and Astronomy

This area deals with the fundamental laws and building blocks of nature and how they interact, the properties and the behavior of matter, and research into space and time and their structures.

innovations-report provides in-depth reports and articles on subjects such as astrophysics, laser technologies, nuclear, quantum, particle and solid-state physics, nanotechnologies, planetary research and findings (Mars, Venus) and developments related to the Hubble Telescope.

Back to home

Comments (0)

Write a comment

Newest articles

Under arrest: Using nanofibers to stop brain tumor cells from spreading

Researchers from Japan develop a platform based on nanofibers to trap brain cancer cells as a therapeutic strategy. Our body heals its injuries by essentially replacing damaged cells with new…

New photonic chip for isolating light may be key to miniaturizing quantum devices

Light offers an irreplaceable way to interact with our universe. It can travel across galactic distances and collide with our atmosphere, creating a shower of particles that tell a story…

A traffic light for light-on-a-chip

Integrated photonics allow us to build compact, portable, low-power chip-scale optical systems used in commercial products, revolutionizing today’s optical datacenters and communications. But integrating on-chip optical gain elements to build…

Partners & Sponsors