Extreme ice and the blues


There are 15 different types of ice known to science and I’m not talkin’ Baskin Robbins here. These are materials with different structures that form when water freezes at various temperatures and pressures. Types XIII and XIV were only discovered in 2006

Most ice we come across naturally is type I, which forms at ambient pressures and we understand many (but not all) of its properties pretty well. But other phases of ice, which although they form at higher pressures, can be stable at ambient pressures.

So what of the properties of these ices? Renjun Xua and colleagues from the National Laboratory of Superhard Materials at Jilin University in China, have calcuated the optical properties of ices X, XI and (the still theoretical) XV.

They say that the optical properties of these materials are significantly blue shifted and that the range of frequncies at which they absorb and reflect light become broader.

The group hints that these qualities should be taken into account by climatologists trying to understand the effects of ice on our climate.

This is a disingenuous attempt to jump on the climatology bandwagon. Although ice covers 5 per cent of the surface of Earth and has covered much more during the various ice ages in the past, there is no indication that this ice is anything but phase I.

Why bother making this link when a much better one would be to the study of other planets and moons where ice forms in much more extreme conditions?

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0801.0187: Ab Initio Investigation of Optical Properties of High-Pressure Phases of Ice

3 Responses to “Extreme ice and the blues”

  1. Tim O'Brien says:

    I disagree strongly with your assertion that this is an attempt to “jump on the climatology bandwagon”. To assume that most of the ice on Earth is Phase I is to fail to appreciate that there is likely ice in other phase under great stress and pressure far below the surface.

  2. KFC says:

    You may be right but then the optical properties of materials buried deep beneath the surface would be of little use to a climatologist.

    Is that a bandwagon I see lurching past?

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