Can water be compressed into a solid?

19 September 2010


Splashing water



Can water be compressed into a solid?
I understand this is a hypothetical question since there is no way to compress water to this extent. But what is hypothesized to happen if one did try to compress water to the point of making it a solid? What would happen?
Jim I.
Carmel, IN. USA.


Ben - We've had an email question from Jim Irvin and he wants to know if you can compress water into a solid. Now obviously you can turn water into a solid just by taking heat away, but can you just press it hard enough to make into a solid structure? Dave what do you think?

Dave - The simple answer is, yes you can. You'd need a ridiculous amount of force, but it is possible. When this happens a different form of ice is formed, called ice IV, which is a different crystal structure to conventional ice.

Ben - Conventional ice has a greater volume than liquid water; so compressing water in order to turn it into conventional ice, you'd need to somehow compress it into a solid and allow it to expand?

Dave - Yes, so it just wouldn't work if you tried to produce conventionally-structured ice.

Ben - Wouldn't work?

Dave - No; but if the ice forms in a different crystal structure that doesn't have a larger volume, which you can achieve with a pressure of about 2 Gigapascals - or about 20,000 atmospheres, which is the same pressure you get under 20 kilometres of ice or water - then you can produce ice at normal room temperature.

Ben - Are there any bits of the world where water is under that sort of pressure, 20 kilometres down deep in some of the deep ocean ridges? And if so why doesn't it form the ice structure?

Dave - Twenty kilometres is about twice as deep as the deepest parts of the ocean, so probably not; though there is no reason why, on other planets with a deeper ocean, you couldn't get this effect.

Ben - So water seems like such a simple thing, such a simple everyday thing, but actually it's fascinating stuff, isn't it?

Dave - It's absolutely bizarre stuff!


Please research a "National Geographic Magazine's" article on Bell Lab's research using the first diamond anvils, to test the reaction of various materials under extreme compression. The article appeared in an issue in the early to mid-1960's, and I don't remember which one.
It stated that during the research, again, if my memory is correct, the Bell Lab had compressed water to approximately 1/2 of it's normal volume, (Don't think it mentioned if Bell achieved a "solid" ice or not) using the new diamond anvil technology. In addition, the article included that Bell had compressed granite "until it would flow like tar".

Hi ,im a student studying in pre university....I don’t much know about tht but i had this question from past 5 years....if it was possible to compress then everything can be solidified or liquified which can help us in many ways like making fuel

Hi I don't really know how crystals are formed but I believe they are formed when water travels down a vain to the lower crust just above the mantel and is super compressed in to crystals that manage to find there way back up to us.... So if that is how it works then could a crystal be made of blood? not threw the same proses but threw creating artificial conditions... Ps (this is for a paper on philosopher-stone and compressed human DNA structures)

its been done, check A metastable limit for compressed liquid water - D. H. Dolan, M. D. Knudson, C. A. Hall & C. Deeney -

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