How do floating water bridges defy gravity?

Nov 06, 2012 by Chelsea Whyte
Infrared thermal images of the floating water bridge setup at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory. The color scale goes from 24°C (dark purple) to 50°C (bright yellow). The four quadrants show the water bridges with different thicknesses and temperatures. The bottom left image shows a water bridge immediately before collapse, due to reduced voltage.

The term "floating water bridge" may sound nonsensical, but it's the most logical name for a phenomenon that occurs when two beakers of water set slightly apart are zapped with high-voltage electricity and the water molecules jump across the gap to connect and form a thin thread of water. The molecular structure that suspends this liquid bridge has stumped scientists for over a century. Now, a team of scientists has peered into floating water bridges with high-energy x-rays using the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory. Their work, "Floating water bridges and the structure of water in an electric field," was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Chelsea Whyte spoke with Brookhaven National Laboratory chemist John Parise, who worked with the team at APS to explore this unexplained phenomenon. 

Q: For this experiment, you set up a floating water bridge and used the APS to shine a beam of x-rays through the water. What exactly were you looking for?

A: We were looking specifically for alignments in the water molecules that were different from alignments of the molecules in liquid water. We've recently finished a study where we'd gathered some of the best data ever taken on liquid water, so we had those data to compare with directly. That's one of the things this paper on floating water bridges does—it looks for small differences between liquid water and the water in this water bridge.

Q: What were you expecting to find?

A: We started out thinking, gosh, there's got to be some structure in this. If it's not collapsing under the influence of gravity, there must be some alignment of the molecules. When you fire a beam of high energy x-rays through it, you'll get a diffuse ring of on the other side, and you can detect these using an x-ray . But you should see modulation of the intensity around the ring that tells you that instead of the water molecules being randomly oriented that there's a predominant orientation. Theoretical calculations tell us that the alignment, if it exists, should be along the bridge direction.

Q: How did the APS help you test for that alignment?

A: One of the powerful things about high-energy x-ray scattering is that you can take a lot of images vertically across the floating bridge or horizontally along the bridge very rapidly. Synchrotron radiation is so bright that you can take large numbers of images while the bridge is still stable. Plus, you can image the temperature—so you can take images of the part of the bridge that's hot, the part that's cold, the skin, and that type of thing.

Q: So, what did you find?

A: As soon as we took our first shot, I said, "That looks awfully even. It just shouldn't be like that." The result is that there's just no quantitative difference between the liquid water and the water in this floating bridge. I was very surprised.

It turns out that you need an awful lot of high voltage to align a significant number of water molecules, and that's not happening with these water bridges. But we only know that now, after we've done the experiment.

The conclusion is that this water bridge must be stabilized by a very thin layer of water, and it's basically surface tension holding it together—the surface tension across the top and bottom of that bridge.

Q: Did you think your findings were wrong?

A: Well yeah! But we did many, many tests and they all revealed the same thing. Of course, then we started to think that this was a sheath, that in fact the voltage was affecting only the molecules at the surface.

Q: What does this experiment and your research into the nature of water tell us?

A: Well, we wouldn't be able to exist without water having the properties that it has. Life on Earth wouldn't exist. And it's all up to something as simple as the fact that water is a very peculiar sort of liquid, in many ways. These water bridges are a result of the geometry of the molecules and hydrogen bonding. It's fascinating behavior and understanding the phenomenon at a deep level tells us something fundamental about .

One aim of our research is to look at things under extreme conditions and see whether extreme conditions can be used to manipulate those materials. Anything that tells you about how you can manipulate matter, especially liquid matter, and how you can direct it to go in this direction rather than that direction is potentially useful fundamental knowledge.

Q: What more do you hope to learn about floating water bridges?

The next thing to do is to look very carefully at the surface and try to use more surface-sensitive techniques. That would be potentially a great thing to look at with the National Synchrotron Light Source II at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which will have much finer beams than the APS. At APS and especially at NSLS-II, we can do some small angle x-ray scattering studies to see if there's any organization in the skin.

Water is a quantum liquid, the universal solvent, and it is essential to biology. The arrangement of in electric fields and at charged surfaces has important implications in electrochemistry, mineralogy and biology.

And once we understand this phenomenon in water, the obvious thing is to move on to other solvents. You can form bridges with other materials that are quite different from water and have much lower surface tension–the most likely explanation of the water bridge stability at this stage–but they all seem to have one thing in common: hydrogen bonding.

Water's many unusual properties depend on its unique molecular interactions, and its structure has long been a matter of debate. Understanding the "how" of the water bridge stability may allow us to manipulate liquids, including , with electric fields.

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cantdrive85
1.3 / 5 (13) Nov 06, 2012
Why does this ionized water behave like this? Here is a simple explanation, but to acknowledge this explanation one needs to accept that the ionized water behaves as if it were a plasma, heaven forbid!
http://www.youtub...ure=plcp

HannesAlfven
1.8 / 5 (10) Nov 06, 2012
I loved that talk. Bob Johnson also wrote the Essential Guide to the Electric Universe ...
Caliban
4.3 / 5 (11) Nov 06, 2012
Why does this ionized water behave like this? Here is a simple explanation, but to acknowledge this explanation one needs to accept that the ionized water behaves as if it were a plasma, heaven forbid!


Who said anything about ionized water?

If I whizz on the electric fence, am I pissing Plasma?

You guys need to take a pill. Really.

cantdrive85
1 / 5 (12) Nov 06, 2012
Who said anything about ionized water?


Right there in the article it says, "two beakers of water set slightly apart are zapped with high-voltage electricity" and goes on to say, "Understanding the "how" of the water bridge stability may allow us to manipulate liquids, including water, with electric fields". When an electric current is applied to something or if it is immersed within an electric field, in this case water, it can become ionized. However, if you'd prefer to continue to be "puzzled" by ignoring behavioral aspects of the electric force rather than accepting a logical and plausible explanation, so be it.

And no DA, you're not pissing plasma, however your urine CAN become ionized by an electric current. Just as you don't fill you car up with fire, the gas needs a catalyst for combustion. Hannes continuously points out how critical thinking is a skill devoid to most, Caliban you have shown your hand.
LED Guy
4.4 / 5 (13) Nov 06, 2012
CD: Water doesn't "become" ionized. There is a balance between H and OH- in water. It's the basis for pH. The equilibrium point can be altered by the addition of materials that increase or decrease the ratio (acids or bases).

Water also conducts really well if you dissolve a salt in it. Does that mean that the oceans are full of plasma?

BTW: gasoline doesn't need a catalyst to combust. Look up auto-ignition temperature.

Yes critical thinks is a skill devoid in most . . .
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (10) Nov 06, 2012
CD: Water doesn't "become" ionized. There is a balance between H and OH- in water. It's the basis for pH. The equilibrium point can be altered by the addition of materials that increase or decrease the ratio (acids or bases).

Water also conducts really well if you dissolve a salt in it. Does that mean that the oceans are full of plasma?

BTW: gasoline doesn't need a catalyst to combust. Look up auto-ignition temperature.

Yes critical thinks is a skill devoid in most . . .

WTH are you talking about? I'm not sure what pH has to do with the electric water bridge. Your analogy is as nonsensical as Caliban's, and if you can build a combustion engine w/o a spark, there are a few auto execs that would like to talk to you. Don't forget to patent that thing.
GenteelWolf
1.5 / 5 (8) Nov 06, 2012
If this interests you, here is an awesome lecture at Univ Wash by Dr. Gerald Pollack called "Water, Energy, and Life: Fresh Views From the Water's Edge".

http://www.uwtv.o...16213809 is the url.

The water arranges itself in a pattern because it is bipolar. Just like the surface tension that kills people when they jump from bridges. Pollack calls it structured or crystalized water.
Isaacsname
4.3 / 5 (3) Nov 06, 2012
I thought H20 was a polar molecule ?

Anyways...

Neat how on the cathode side the temperature increase appears laminar.
Caliban
3.1 / 5 (10) Nov 07, 2012
CD: Water doesn't "become" ionized. There is a balance between H and OH- in water. It's the basis for pH. The equilibrium point can be altered by the addition of materials that increase or decrease the ratio (acids or bases).

Water also conducts really well if you dissolve a salt in it. Does that mean that the oceans are full of plasma?

BTW: gasoline doesn't need a catalyst to combust. Look up auto-ignition temperature.

Yes critical thinks is a skill devoid in most . . .

WTH are you talking about? I'm not sure what pH has to do with the electric water bridge. Your analogy is as nonsensical as Caliban's, and if you can build a combustion engine w/o a spark, there are a few auto execs that would like to talk to you. Don't forget to patent that thing.


Uh-huh. You REALLY don't know what the hell you are talking about.

I recommend that you undertake a four-year undergraduate program that is heavy on the chemistry and physics, just so that you can get a clue.
GenteelWolf
1 / 5 (5) Nov 07, 2012
Isaacsname,

Polar implies whether or not H20 has poles or not. Bipolar express how many poles it has. It is both.
antialias_physorg
4.7 / 5 (12) Nov 07, 2012
and if you can build a combustion engine w/o a spark, there are a few auto execs that would like to talk to you.

Have you ever heard of a diesel engine?
barakn
4 / 5 (8) Nov 07, 2012
When an electric current is applied to something or if it is immersed within an electric field, in this case water, it can become ionized

Water is always partially ionized, electric field or no. Please learn some basic chemistry before trying to sound like you're having an intelligent discussion.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (8) Nov 07, 2012
When an electric current is applied to something or if it is immersed within an electric field, in this case water, it can become ionized

Water is always partially ionized, electric field or no. Please learn some basic chemistry before trying to sound like you're having an intelligent discussion.


Where did I claim it wasn't? Although the experimenters claim to have begun with deionized water, once the high voltage electric current is added the water takes on plasma like behavior. I never claimed it was plasma, it takes on PLASMA LIKE behavior.

and if you can build a combustion engine w/o a spark, there are a few auto execs that would like to talk to you.

Have you ever heard of a diesel engine?

Glow plugs? Start a cold diesel on a cold day in Denver w/o glow plugs and I will admit I'm wrong.

cantdrive85
1.4 / 5 (9) Nov 07, 2012

WTH are you talking about? I'm not sure what pH has to do with the electric water bridge. Your analogy is as nonsensical as Caliban's, and if you can build a combustion engine w/o a spark, there are a few auto execs that would like to talk to you. Don't forget to patent that thing.


Uh-huh. You REALLY don't know what the hell you are talking about.

I recommend that you undertake a four-year undergraduate program that is heavy on the chemistry and physics, just so that you can get a clue.


The experimenters started with deionized (pure) water, any ionization is caused by the electric current. This paper, doi:10.1155/2009/371650, describes what happens when electrolytes are added.
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (11) Nov 07, 2012
Glow plugs? Start a cold diesel on a cold day in Denver w/o glow plugs and I will admit I'm wrong.


Don't weasel. You said "spark". Glow plugs don't spark.
And there are designs that don't even require the glow plug (mostly on tractors and similar, because it lowers efficiency but makes them more robust because it eliminates one serviceable part). These can be started in sub freezing temperatures.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (11) Nov 07, 2012
Glow plugs? Start a cold diesel on a cold day in Denver w/o glow plugs and I will admit I'm wrong.


Don't weasel. You said "spark". Glow plugs don't spark.
And there are designs that don't even require the glow plug (mostly on tractors and similar, because it lowers efficiency but makes them more robust because it eliminates one serviceable part). These can be started in sub freezing temperatures.

I said "spark" in relation to the gasoline engine example I mentioned, LED Guy claimed that gasoline spontaneously combusts for no reason, a spurious claim at best. My initial comment was the need for a "catalyst" to cause the combustion, although the diesel engines may not need a spark, the diesel does not just spontaneously combust, whether it be pressure, glow plugs, ether, or methenol, there is a catalyst to produce the combustion.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2012
Interesting is, the warm water heated in the bridge sinks bellow surface of water (compare the above thermo-camera image)
barakn
4.4 / 5 (7) Nov 08, 2012

The experimenters started with deionized (pure) water, any ionization is caused by the electric current. This paper, doi:10.1155/2009/371650, describes what happens when electrolytes are added.

Deionized water has had the last remaining dissolved salt ions removed. However, even in the purest water possible, some of the water molecules dissociate into charged species spontaneously. That is why it is possible to measure the pH of even pure, "deionized" water (pH being the negative log of the molar concentration of hydronium ions). As I said, please learn some basic chemistry. Here, I'll help you: http://en.wikiped...of_water
antialias_physorg
4.4 / 5 (7) Nov 08, 2012
I said "spark" in relation to the gasoline engine example I mentioned,

No.
You said:
"and if you can build a COMBUSTION engine w/o a spark,..." (bold mine)

and then you said:
"Start a cold DIESEL on a cold day in Denver w/o glow plugs and I will admit I'm wrong." (bold mine)

So just admit you're wrong.

the diesel does not just spontaneously combust...there is a catalyst to produce the combustion.

Pressure (and the resultant heat) is not a catalyst. Catalysts are SUBSTANCES that change the rate of a chemical reaction (without being consumed by the reaction)
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (15) Nov 08, 2012
Glow plugs? Start a cold diesel on a cold day in Denver w/o glow plugs and I will admit I'm wrong.
AA the best way to shut people down is to do a little research. This took 5min

"Homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) is a form of internal combustion in which well-mixed fuel and oxidizer (typically air) are compressed to the point of auto-ignition. As in other forms of combustion, this exothermic reaction releases chemical energy into a sensible form that can be transformed in an engine into work and heat."
http://en.wikiped...ignition

-Diesels aren't DESIGNED to operate without glowplugs. HCCI engines are.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) Nov 08, 2012
Catalyst- an AGENT that provokes or speeds significant change or action

Agent- SOMETHING that produces or is capable of producing an effect : an active or efficient cause

Something- used for referring to a thing, idea, fact etc when you do not know or say exactly what it is

Not sure how I'm wrong, unless of course a myopic POV is taken.

Myopic- a lack of foresight or discernment : a narrow view of something

POV- Point of View

This is ridiculous that a definition must be inserted to qualify a statement, I saw a similar argument on another thread about "dampen", rather than a discussion about the water bridge, let's tear down analogies that are used to expound upon a point due to a simple minded myopic understanding of the definition of words.

Pitiful!
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (7) Nov 08, 2012
barakn,
The presence of those free ions and electrons you mention is why the water behaves like a plasma. This video of Dr. Gerald Pollock at the last EUT conference shows how a high voltage current is not needed to induce a flow in water, the energy from the Sun alone can induce a current flow within a single beaker of water.
https://www.thund...ic-body/

If it walks like a plasma, and quacks like a plasma, maybe, for all intents and purposes, it is a plasma. The fact that it retains these free ions and electrons suggests this to be true.
barakn
5 / 5 (7) Nov 08, 2012
Sure, if you're going to ignore the fact that non-ionized water molecules are still polar and thus attracted to the ions, and the molecules are far more highly concentrated than they would be in a typical gas. Ions in a true plasma are mostly affected by the charges of the other ions, and hardly notice the non-ionized gas particles unless there's a direct collision. In water, though, the ions are surrounded a cage of water molecules that arrange themselves in a way that partially shields the charge of the ion, and these cages are hydrogen bonded to the rest of the water mass. The ions are thus stuck in and quite attached to a sticky fluid. Apply an electrical field and the ions will wade through the morass like a tackle that somehow ended up with the football, puny receivers dangling from his arms. This is why water's resistivity is so high, and thus why it is not easily comparable to a plasma.
MrVibrating
1 / 5 (1) Nov 11, 2012
Interesting effect. I'm struck by a question - suppose a thin glass tube is touched to the bridge; would capillary action draw the water up to a greater height, compared to an uncharged sample? If the effect is purely electrostatic then one would expect so. If however the effect is dependent on dynamics such as annular flows and charge separation as indicated in cantdrive85's first link, one would expect a negative result...
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 11, 2012
Sneaky description. Water is ubiquitous on Earth, so life depends on it. However, other solvents could be available (methane, say, see Titan) and so used elsewhere.

@ cantdrive85: Water behaves like this because simple surface tension rejects "plasma" theories.

And who said the water was ionized? Water is a polarized molecule, chemistry 101. Another fail of PC/EU.

"if you can build a combustion engine w/o a spark, there are a few auto execs that would like to talk to you."

LOL! External combustion engine, the aeolipile of Heron 1st century CE. Internal combustion engine, the gas-fired ICE of Lenoir 19 century CE. [Wikipedia]

"Catalyst": refers technically (by use) to substances. "Catalysis is the change in rate of a chemical reaction due to the participation of a substance called a catalyst." [ http://en.wikiped...atalysis ]

Your unsourced "definition" is shit-made-up from a make-up-shitter.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) Nov 11, 2012
Definition of Catalyst;
1: a substance that enables a chemical reaction to proceed at a usually faster rate or under different conditions (as at a lower temperature) than otherwise possible
2: an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action

http://www.merria...catalyst

If you took the time to crawl out of your cave o' dogma, and watched Mr. Pollock's video Genteel pointed out, you'd see it's much more than "simple surface tension". Even in a glass of water there is charge separation (tall glass of battery) and a growing crystalline structure is formed below the surface. The crystalline structure is remarkably similar to that of cold crystal plasmas, the biggest issue you have is an ignorant understanding of plasma and it's many properties and characteristics.

"And who said the water was ionized? Water is a polarized molecule, chemistry 101. Another fail of PC/EU."

H2O can't lose an electron or proton? Wow

Dogma, meet dog shit!

hessimoto
not rated yet Nov 11, 2012
I just have a gut feeling that the heat distribution difference between the 2 beakers is a big hint as to what's happening here.
Parsec
5 / 5 (1) Nov 12, 2012
CD: Water doesn't "become" ionized. There is a balance between H and OH- in water. It's the basis for pH. The equilibrium point can be altered by the addition of materials that increase or decrease the ratio (acids or bases).

Water also conducts really well if you dissolve a salt in it. Does that mean that the oceans are full of plasma?

BTW: gasoline doesn't need a catalyst to combust. Look up auto-ignition temperature.

Yes critical thinks is a skill devoid in most . . .

WTH are you talking about? I'm not sure what pH has to do with the electric water bridge. Your analogy is as nonsensical as Caliban's, and if you can build a combustion engine w/o a spark, there are a few auto execs that would like to talk to you. Don't forget to patent that thing.

Its called a diesel engine. No spark plugs. No spark. Just compression. Also, a spark isn't a catalyst. By anyone's definition. Your embarrassing yourself dude.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.2 / 5 (11) Nov 12, 2012
Its called a diesel engine. No spark plugs. No spark. Just compression. Also, a spark isn't a catalyst. By anyone's definition. Your embarrassing yourself dude.
Just a suggestion -try reading the thread before you participate? You're embarrassing yourself dude.
Infinum
1 / 5 (2) Nov 18, 2012
The guy from cantdrive85's YouTube url (http://www.youtub...sK4tWYA) explains the effect under 5 mins. The bridge is a tube of fluid rotating due to high magnetic field induced by high electric current. It's all shown in the video, just watch it.

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