Repeatedly firing powerful laser beams turned water into a dark and hot solid.

University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory researchers have turned iced water turns into a “strange, black” substance called superionic ice.

The team made the discovery after crushing a droplet of water between two diamonds. They then repeatedly exposed it to one of the world’s most intense lasers. The droplet was pressurized and heated to 3.5 million times the Earth’s normal atmospheric pressure.

Supersonic ice that formed was black and surprisingly hot. This happened because hydrogen atoms in water gave up their electrons, and become ions that freely move through the ice like a fluid. The ice turned dark because the hydrogen atoms prevented light from passing through.

“Imagine a cube, a lattice with oxygen atoms at the corners connected by hydrogen,” co-author Vitali Prakapenka said according to Live Science.

“When it transforms into this new superionic phase the lattice expands, allowing the hydrogen atoms to migrate around while the oxygen atoms remain steady in their positions,” he added. “It is kind of like a solid oxygen lattice sitting in an ocean of floating hydrogen atoms.”

Although it only remained stable for 20 nanoseconds before dissolving, this was still enough time for researchers to study the substance and publish their findings in the Nature Physics journal on Oct. 14.

“It was a surprise–everyone thought this phase would not appear until you are at much higher pressures than where we first find it,” Prakapenka said according to the publication.

At least 20 different form of water have been discovered after exposing the liquid to different temperatures and pressures.

Sign up to receive our latest news!

By submitting this form, I agree to the terms.