The microfibers never got very long — they could barely be seen with the naked eye — but high-resolution imaging revealed that they were single crystals. That means that the atoms within them are arranged in repeating patterns. “The atoms are ordered like honeycombs,” Dr. Tong said. This structural perfection, paired with the microfibers’ relative lack of microscopic defects — such as tiny cracks, pores and missing atoms or molecules — renders them much more flexible than naturally occurring ice, said Erland Schulson, an ice scientist at Dartmouth College, who was not involved in the research. “There are no grain boundaries, no cracks, no features that otherwise limit how much elastic strain a body can experience.” To demonstrate that flexibility, Dr. Tong and his colleagues used microscopic tools to push on the microfibers. They showed that the ice could be bent like a cooked noodle into almost complete circles before returning, unchanged, to its original rod-like shape. “There was no permanent deformation,” said Dr. Schulson, who wrote a perspective article that accompanied the study in Science. The team also found that the microfibers effectively transmitted light along their lengths. When the researchers sent visible light into one end of the microfibers, more than 99 percent emerged at the other end. They function just like fiber optic strands that enable fast internet communications, Dr. Tong said.