The ice was able to bend like a piece of elastic. Image Credit: YouTube / New Scientist
Ice isn't exactly known for its flexibility, which makes this latest achievement particularly impressive.
What would happen if you tried to bend a piece of ice into a loop ? It would immediately break... right ?
Usually the answer to this question would be 'yes' - ice is notoriously brittle and rigid and has next to no give, meaning that any attempts to bend it will likely create cracks and cause it to break apart.
Now though, a team of scientists headed up by nanoscientist Peizhen Xu of Zhejiang University in China has discovered a way to get around this problem by growing microfibers of water ice that can bend into a loop while simultaneously breaking the previous record for maximum strain.
To achieve this, the team set out to create ice with as few structural imperfections as possible, a feat that was accomplished using a tungsten needle in an ultracold chamber.
Water vapor was released into the chamber and an electric field applied. The water molecules were then attracted to the top of the needle, forming a microfiber of ice 10 micrometers wide.
By then reducing the temperature to -150C, the scientists were able to bend the ice into a loop.
Their breakthrough could have many practical applications.
"We could imagine the use of IMFs as low-temperature sensors to study, for example, molecular adsorption on ice, environmental changes, structural variation, and surface deformation of ice," the researchers wrote.
"In short, the elastic ice microfibers demonstrated here may offer an alternative platform for exploring ice physics and open previously unexplored opportunities for ice-related technology in various disciplines."