Posted: August 2, 2010

'Water from Neptun' soon in laboratories

(Nanowerk News) The conditions experienced by water molecules on Neptune might be simulated in 2015. A group of 15 international physicists created a project of pressure simulation on water molecules, that will be tested when the new Facility for Antiprotons and Ion Research (FAIR) accelerator in Germany will be finalized. Scientists plan to create a level of pressure on water molecules equal to that of Neptune, by exposing them to heavy ion beams.
Even if Science discovered that Neptune is partially composed of water molecules, ways of water-behavior testing were unavailable so far. Scientists part of the project believe that by using the new heavy ion beams, a pressure several million times greater that on Earth can be created. The group counts 15 European, Chinese and Russian researchers from GSI Helmholzzentrun für Schwerionenforschung, Universität Rostock, Universite Paris-Sud, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, the Chinese Academy of Science and the Russian Academy of Science.
The "superionic" state of the Neptunial water is a hybrid state, composed of a hydrogen liquid and an oxygen lattice, which form stable water (H2O) molecules in a liquid or in an ice lattice. Succeeding this experiment will allow scientists to better understand the magnetic field of planets like Uranus and Neptune, very different that Earth's.
The new heavy ion beams necessary for the experiment will be available once the Facility for Antiprotons and Ion Research is completed. They will be generated by a particle accelerator at FAIR, with a more targeted and unvarying pressure on the water molecules than before.
The physicians write in New Journal of Physics: "The FAIR accelerator facilities will provide very powerful high quality heavy ion beams with unprecedented intensities. Extensive theoretical work on beam matter heating over the past decade has shown that the ion beams that will be generated at FAIR will be a very unique and very efficient tool to study High Energy Density Particles in those regions of the parameter space that are not so easy to access with the traditional method."
Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences