Bendy Ice Uncurls Without Breaking

When grown in tiny strands, ice can bend and then snap back into its original shape. Most water ice is extremely brittle and breaks easily rather than bending, but a single, long crystal of ice can be far more flexible. In research published in Science , Limin Tong at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, and his colleagues have used this quality to fabricate what they say is the most elastic water ice ever, close to the theoretical limit of how flexible it can be. They made their fibers using water vapor piped into a small chamber kept at a temperature of -50°C. An electric field in the chamber attracted water molecules to a needle made of tungsten, where they crystalized to build fibers up to a few micrometers in diameter. The fibers are also super clear, allowing for efficient light transmission and opening up applications in photonics.