Owing to the many different ways atoms can be arranged within the material, ice can exist in many more forms than what’s known as ice I, the type we’re all familiar with. Scientists have actually categorized 18 different types of the material, each with its own unique crystalline structure, and now have added another, called ice XIX, to the list.
Ice I is the ice we see forming in ice and snow here on Earth, and stands alone as the only type of ice you’ll find on the surface of our planet, with the exception of research laboratories. Other forms, such as ice VI and VII, have been discovered to have developed deep in the Earth’s mantle locked inside diamonds that were slowly pushed upward over time, while other types can be found on other planets and moons or in space.
These different types of ice form in response to different pressures and temperatures, which shapes the way the oxygen and hydrogen atoms and water molecules are arranged within them. Scientists at Austria’s University of Innsbruck have been experimenting with this process for years, making tweaks to the process that produces ice VI, which normally forms under high pressure, to see what eventuates.