Scientists have presented several artificial microfibers of water ice that bend into a loop. So the researchers increased the previous values of the maximum deformation and opened up new possibilities for studying the physics of ice.
The researchers explained that the maximum elastic deformation of the ice should be around 15%. However, experimentally, scientists were able to achieve an elasticity of less than 0.3%. The reason for this discrepancy is that ice crystals have structural deficiencies that increase their fragility.
So a team of researchers led by Peizheng Xu of Zhejiang University in China tried to create ice with as few structural flaws as possible. They conducted an experiment in which they placed a tungsten needle in an ultra-cold chamber at about -50 ° C. Water vapor was released into the chamber and an electric field was applied. This attracted water molecules to the tip of the needle, where they crystallized, forming a microfiber with a maximum width of about 10 micrometers, which is less than the width of a human hair.
The next step was to lower the temperature to values from -70 to -150 ° C. At such low temperatures, the researchers tried to bend the ice fibers. They found that a microfiber 4.4 micrometers across was able to bend into a nearly circular shape with a radius of 20 micrometers. This indicates a maximum elastic deformation of 10.9% – much closer to the theoretical limit than previous experiments.
The scientists added that ice may look the same to us, and its crystal structure can be very different. Each configuration of molecules in an ice crystal is called a phase, and there are quite a few such phases. The transition between phases can occur under various conditions associated with pressure and temperature.