Weird world of water gets a little weirder with a new anomaly

Nov 09, 2011

Strange, stranger, strangest! To the weird nature of one of the simplest chemical compounds -- the stuff so familiar that even non-scientists know its chemical formula -- add another odd twist. Scientists are reporting that good old H2O, when chilled below the freezing point, can shift into a new type of liquid. The report appears in ACS' Journal of Physical Chemistry B.

Pradeep Kumar and H. Eugene Stanley explain that water is one weird substance, exhibiting more than 80 unusual properties, by one count, including some that scientists still struggle to understand. For example, water can exist in all three states of matter (solid, liquid,gas) at the same time. And the forces at its surface enable insects to walk on water and water to rise up from the roots into the leaves of trees and other plants. In another strange turn, scientists have proposed that water can go from being one type of liquid into another in a so-called "liquid-liquid" phase transition, but it is impossible to test this with today's laboratory equipment because these things happen so fast. That's why Kumar and Stanley used to check it out.

They found that when they chilled liquid water in their simulation, its propensity to conduct heat decreases, as expected for an ordinary liquid. But, when they lowered the temperature to about 54 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, the liquid water started to conduct heat even better in the simulation. Their studies suggest that below this temperature, liquid water undergoes sharp but continuous structural changes whereas the local structure of liquid becomes extremely ordered -- very much like ice. These structural changes in lead to increase of heat conduction at lower temperatures. The researchers say that this surprising result supports the idea that water has a liquid-liquid phase transition.

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More information: Thermal Conductivity Minimum: A New Water Anomaly, J. Phys. Chem. B, Article ASAP. DOI: 10.1021/jp2051867

Abstract
We investigate the thermal conductivity of liquid water using computer simulations of the TIP5P model of water. Our simulations show that, in addition to the maximum at high temperatures at constant pressure that it exhibits in experiments, the thermal conductivity also displays a minimum at low temperatures. We find that the temperature of minimum thermal conductivity in supercooled liquid water coincides with the temperature of maximum specific heat. We discuss our results in the context of structural changes in liquid water at low temperatures.

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User comments : 8

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barakn
3.7 / 5 (7) Nov 09, 2011
water is one weird substance, exhibiting more than 80 unusual properties, by one count, including some that scientists still struggle to understand. For example, water can exist in all three states of matter (solid, liquid,gas) at the same time.
Who wrote this? What utter nonsense. Most substances will have a triple-point at the right temperature and pressure. See for example http://en.wikiped...e_points
HannesAlfven
2.1 / 5 (11) Nov 09, 2011
Water's unique ability to switch between the structured and unstructured states is the basis for all life, according to Gerald Pollack -- an emerging leader in the field of cell biology. Water is special due to its *ELECTRICAL* properties -- namely, the strength of its dipole. This is why proteins exist: To turn the structure of water on and off, like a transistor, based upon a wide range of stimuli. See "Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life".

The transition from solid to liquid to gas is an alteration of the inherent order of water (from ordered to chaotic). Water's dipolar force can, in other words, be disrupted by random thermal forces. But, this is a conceptual explanation; the details are clearly more detailed and complicated.

Water is quickly becoming a controversial subject. This means that wikipedia is irrelevant to the discussion, as wikipedia only portrays one side of all controversies -- the conventional side.
barakn
1 / 5 (1) Nov 09, 2011
So now you're trying to argue that the triple points of common chemicals are controversial? You know less about chemistry than you do physics, and you don't know much physics.
TheFlynn
1 / 5 (1) Nov 09, 2011
If you can't accurately perform the logic functions of an English sentence, you shouldn't be criticizing others, Barakn.

E_W
not rated yet Nov 09, 2011
Semantics aside barakn's point is that a triple point is not unique to water, and neither is surface tension.
tpb
not rated yet Nov 10, 2011
But, when they lowered the temperature to about 54 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, the liquid water started to conduct heat even better in the simulation.
Can liquid water exist at this temperature? I thought water froze at about 0C regardless of pressure.
suckedinscience
not rated yet Nov 10, 2011
About the triple point of water : i think the author meant water exhibits a triple point at reasonably attainable conditions in nature while for most of other substances one would require laboratory conditions.
wildfire
not rated yet Nov 14, 2011
My theory is this that the water on Neptune is just this type of water. And the thought to be big storm is in fact a PANGAEA state just like a supercontinent or rock that existed here on earth, during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras about 250 million years ago, before the component continents were separated into their current configuration.

Todd J. Tocco

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