Study unveils new superionic states of helium-water compounds

phys.org | 3/15/2018 | Staff
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Behaviour of H and He atoms compared to O atoms in Fd-3m He2H2O from AIMD simulations at 1,600 K, 2,000 K and 2,300 K. (a–c) The averaged MSDs for the H, He and O atoms from AIMD simulations at different temperatures. (d–i) Representation of atomic trajectories in one supercell from the simulations from the last 5 ps run representing the three distinct phases: the solid phase (1,600 K), the superionic He phase (2,000 K), SI-I, and superionic He + H phase (2,300 K), SI-II. To avoid overlapping, only H and O are shown in d–f, and only He and O are shown in g–i. Credit: Liu et al.

Helium and water are known to be abundant throughout the universe, particularly in giant planets such as Uranus and Neptune. Although helium is typically unreactive at common atmospheric conditions, past studies have found that it can sometimes react with other elements and compounds under high pressure.

Researchers - Nanjing - University - University - Cambridge

Researchers at Nanjing University and the University of Cambridge have recently carried out a study investigating the reaction between helium and water under high pressure conditions such as those on other planets. In their study, featured in Nature Physics, they unveiled two previously unknown types of superionic states, which they refer to as SI-I and SI-II. Superionic states are essentially phases of matter in which a compound can simultaneously exhibit both some properties of a liquid and a solid.

"Helium is the most inert element in the periodic table and generally considered to be unreactive under ambient conditions," Jian Sun, one of the researchers who carried out the study, told Phys.org. "However, helium has been found react with some elements and compounds at high pressure. We wanted to understand whether helium and water can react with each other under high pressure and the nature of the states that may...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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