Academic journal article Science and Children

The 'Squarest' Ice Crystals Ever Made

Academic journal article Science and Children

The 'Squarest' Ice Crystals Ever Made

Article excerpt

You won't find ice cubes like this in your freezer.

An international team of scientists has set a new record for creating ice crystals that have a near-perfect cubic arrangement of water molecules--a form of ice that may exist in the coldest high-altitude clouds but is extremely hard to make on Earth.

The ability to make and study cubic ice in the laboratory could improve computer models of how clouds interact with sunlight and the atmosphere, which could help scientists better understand climate change. It could also enhance our understanding of water.

Under a microscope, normal water ice (everything from frozen ponds to snow to the ice we make at home) is made of crystals with hexagonal symmetry. But with only a slight change in how the water molecules are arranged in ice, the crystals can take on a cubic form.

So far, researchers have used the presence of cold cubic ice clouds high above the Earth's surface to explain interesting halos observed around the Sun, as well as the presence of triangular ice crystals in the atmosphere. Scientists have struggled for decades to make cubic ice in the laboratory, but because the cubic form is unstable, the closest anyone has come is to make hybrid crystals that are around 70% cubic and 30% hexagonal. …

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