You asked for curly fries, science gave you curly fries. You didn’t ask for curly ice but science gave you that anyways. Researchers have just developed ice that can bend like a regular wire. This ice is thin but isn’t brittle and breaks under the slightest touch. It is actually surprisingly elastic and acts more like wire. Researchers showed that the ice could be bent, pulled, twisted, and it still wouldn’t break.
Researchers from Zhejiang University in China were responsible for this new technology. They are calling it elastic ice microfibers. Ice is usually brittle due to the way it’s made and all the impurities and microcracks that are formed during the freezing process. However, these researchers have just proved that under the right circumstances, ice can behave just like a regular wire. Here’s a sneak peek of just how amazing this is.
The research was led by Limin Tong and was published in the journal Science. You can take a look at the research here. Limin and his team discovered that ice can be flexible and springy if given the right conditions. To make this springy ice, the team had to channel water vapors into a small electric chamber cooled by liquid nitrogen. A tungsten pin electrified to 2,000 volts was placed inside the chamber to attract the water vapors which then formed into the ice microfibers.
They tried to freeze at different temperatures and discovered that the microfibers made at -150 degrees celsius showed elastic properties. They could bend to a maximum strain of 10.9%. Regular ice has an elastic strain of 0.3% so you can imagine just how good this discovery really is. Theoretically, they can push this number up to 15% so it’s nice to know that there is still much to discover.
The ice was surprisingly transparent as well which prompted the researchers to think about its applications. According to Limin, “They can guide light from one side to the other”. This means that this could be used as a replacement for fiber optic cables. The paper also said that “The discovery of these flexible ice fibers opens opportunities for exploring ice physics and ice-related technology on micro-and nanometer scales”.
Erland Schulson, an engineer from Dartmouth College, also spoke out about the potential for this research. He said that “In showing that ice can reach a high level of mechanical integrity, and with high optical quality, [the team] revealed the potential for similar improvement through appropriate processing in the behavior of other brittle, crystalline materials”.
So it does melt like regular ice right?