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Order and disorder in crystalline ice explained

29 December 2020
A new theoretical model enlightens the structure and the electrical properties of pure and doped ice

A fascinating substance with unique properties, ice has intrigued humans since time immemorial. Unlike most other materials, ice at very low temperature is not as ordered as it could be. A collaboration between SISSA, ICTP and the Institute of Physics Rosario (IFIR-UNR), with the support of CNR-IOM, made new theoretical inroads on the reasons why this happens and on the way in which some of the missing order can be recovered. In that ordered state the team of scientists have described a relatively obscure and yet fundamental property of very low temperature ice, ferroelectricity. The results, published in PNAS, are likely to extend to ice surfaces, a possibility that could be relevant to the agglomeration of ice particles in interstellar space.