Synchrotrons explore water's molecular mysteries

February 1, 2013 by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Illustration of the first layer of a thin film of water on a barium fluoride crystal surface, showing that the water sample exists in an unexpected, high-density liquid form, with chain-like molecular formations resembling low-density crystalline ice. Credit: Nature Scientific Reports

(—In experiments at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, scientists observed a surprisingly dense form of water that remained liquid well beyond its typical freezing point.

Researchers applied a superthin coating of water – no deeper than a few molecules – to the surface of a barium fluoride crystal.

This surface was expected to stimulate ice formation, but even when chilled to a temperature of about 6.5 degrees Fahrenheit – well below water's normal – the water remained liquid.

Further, the of the water on the crystal surface unexpectedly transformed to a high-density form in a broad temperature range, mimicking the density water achieves when pressure is applied.

The research, published Jan. 15 in Nature Scientific Reports, spanned more than three years and included experiments at SLAC's Stanford Synchrotron Radiation and Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source synchrotrons, as well as by collaborators in Sweden.

The work represents a milestone in understanding some of the many exotic properties water exhibits under a range of conditions, said Anders Nilsson, one of the lead authors. He is deputy director of the SUNCAT Center for Interface Science and Catalysis, a Stanford/SLAC institute, and a professor of photon science at SLAC.

Understanding the effect that certain materials have on water at the molecular scale may help scientists design materials that "can steer the water structure and properties," he said.

"This can lead to the design of new membranes for water purification," Nilsson said. "Access to clean water will be the next crisis in the world after energy, and maybe even become more challenging."

The paper is the latest in a series of reports on research at SLAC that is exploring the many unique and unusual properties of water: Its solid form is less dense than its liquid form, it can remain liquid well below its typical freezing point and its strong surface tension allows some insects to actually walk on water, for example.

Further studies using different materials are needed to determine whether the high-density form of observed on the is specifically caused by its interaction with that material, or whether it is a general phenomenon, Nilsson said.

The research does refute "widely believed concepts" that the pattern of the crystal's , which is similar to the latticed molecular structure of ice, can greatly impact ice formation by serving as a sort of artificial template, he said.

Explore further: Researchers reveal the internal dance of water

More information: … /full/srep01074.html

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1 / 5 (3) Feb 01, 2013
People, this is an absolutely STUNNING vindication for Gerald Pollack's research at the University of Washington on structured water. And the implications could not possibly be more profound, because this is the very mechanism which he is alleging is at play within the cell's cytoplasm. Structured water is basically ice, minus the protons. When freezing occurs, signs of an inward rush of protons can actually be observed.

Pollack has already validated that water filters (which operate with nothing more than ambient light) can be built using this mechanism, and he has even suggested that this mechanism is at play in blood vessels. The body harvests energy (resonant at 270 nm) in order to assist with the pumping of blood, and this explains why energy calculations based entirely upon food run into accounting problems -- and probably even explains why some strange people claim that they can survive without food. They are living off of light.
1 / 5 (3) Feb 01, 2013
Re: "Further studies using different materials are needed to determine whether the high-density form of water observed on the crystal surface is specifically caused by its interaction with that material, or whether it is a general phenomenon, Nilsson said."

Yes, it requires a hydrophilic surface, but as far as the body is concerned, this is indeed a "general phenomenon" since proteins exhibit all of the ingredients necessary to structure the body's entire water supply.

Cell biology is in for a paradigm change here, but I suspect that this will be very rough going. As a human being who desperately wants to see our system for medical research to be improved, I want to plead with the cell biology theorists to please know when to step aside and encourage the work of a competing researcher. How you guys respond to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will have a huge impact upon where this goes. These new ideas are not "threats" to be extinguished. This is not team sports here.
not rated yet Feb 01, 2013
This could be ice-breaking stuff. Wouldn't ice at a temperature above 6.5 degrees turn to water on contact with this material? If so, I guess one molecular layer at a time, which would freeze right up again when contact with the material is lost. Still, maybe portable drinking-water-from-ice extraction units. Think practical.
1 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2013
… Crickets ...

Notice how nobody appears to notice that there is a paradigm change in cell biology underway.

… Crickets ...

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