Homogeneous melting of crystals is a complex multistep process involving the formation of transient states at temperatures considerably higher than the melting point. The nature and persistence of these metastable structures are intimately connected to the melting process, and a precise definition of the temporal boundaries of these phenomena is not yet available. We set up a specifically designed experiment to probe by transient infrared absorption spectroscopy the entire dynamics, ranging from tens of picoseconds to microseconds, of superheating and melting of an ice crystal. In spite of a large excess of energy provided, only about 30% of the micrometric crystal liquefies in the first 20-25 ns because of the long persistence of the superheated metastable phase that extends for more than 100 ns. This behavior is ascribed to the population of low-energy states that trap a large amount of energy, favoring the formation of a metastable, likely plastic, ice phase.
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