High pressure partially ionic phase of water ice

Nat Commun. 2011 Nov 29;2:563. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1566.


Water ice dissociates into a superionic solid at high temperature (>2,000 K) and pressure, where oxygen forms the lattice, but hydrogen diffuses completely. At low temperature, however, the dissociation into an ionic ice of hydronium (H(3)O)(+) hydroxide (OH)(-) is not expected because of the extremely high energy cost (~1.5 eV) of proton transfer between H(2)O molecules. Here we show the pressure-induced formation of a partially ionic phase (monoclinic P2(1) structure) consisting of coupled alternate layers of (OH)(δ-) and (H(3)O)(δ+) (δ=0.62) in water ice predicted by particle-swarm optimization structural search at zero temperature and pressures of >14 Mbar. The occurrence of this ionic phase follows the break-up of the typical O-H covalently bonded tetrahedrons in the hydrogen symmetric atomic phases and is originated from the volume reduction favourable for a denser structure packing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ice*
  • Temperature
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Ice
  • Water