May 20, 2024

Mysterious “Zen Stone” Phenomenon Finally Understood

A lab recreation of the Zen stone phenomenon in a lyophilizer. Credit: © Nicolas Taberlet/ Nicolas Plihon
Like a work of art preserved in a museum, some stones end up on a pedestal of ice in nature, without any human intervention.
This “Zen stone” phenomenon, called after the stacked stones in Japanese gardens, appears on the surface of frozen lakes, Lake Baikal (Russia) in specific. These structures arise from the phenomenon of sublimation, which triggers a body, in this case ice, to alter from strong to gaseous kind without the intermediary kind of a liquid.
This was recently shown by scientists from the CNRS and lUniversité Claude Bernard Lyon, who replicated the phenomenon in the lab. They revealed that the shade created by the stone hinders the solar irradiance that sublimates the ice, consequently shaping the pedestal.

This research study has actually helped expose and understand an uncommon phenomenon of sublimation within a natural context in the world.
It was released in the journal PNAS.
Referral: “Sublimation-driven morphogenesis of Zen stones on ice surface areas” by Nicolas Taberlet and Nicolas Plihon, 27 September 2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.DOI: 10.1073/ pnas.2109107118.

By CNRS
January 27, 2022