Researchers discover new state water molecule

Researchers discover new state of water molecule

6:55 AM, 27th April 2016
Researchers discover new state of water molecule
ORNL researchers discovered that water in beryl displays some unique and unexpected characteristics.

OAK RIDGE, US: Neutron scattering and computational modelling have revealed unique and unexpected behaviour of water molecules under extreme confinement that is unmatched by any known gas, liquid or solid states.

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) describe a new tunnelling state of water molecules confined in hexagonal ultra-small channels – 5 angstrom across – of the mineral beryl. An angstrom is 1/10-billionth of a meter, and individual atoms are typically about 1 angstrom in diameter.

The discovery, made possible with experiments at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom, demonstrates features of water under ultra confinement in rocks, soil and cell walls, which scientists predict will be of interest across many disciplines.

“At low temperatures, this tunnelling water exhibits quantum motion through the separating potential walls, which is forbidden in the classical world,” said lead author Alexander Kolesnikov of ORNL’s chemical and engineering materials division. “This means that the oxygen and hydrogen atoms of the water molecule are ‘delocalized’ and therefore simultaneously present in all six symmetrically equivalent positions in the channel at the same time. It’s one of those phenomena that only occur in quantum mechanics and has no parallel in our everyday experience.”

The existence of the tunnelling state of water shown in ORNL’s study should help scientists better describe the thermodynamic properties and behaviour of water in highly confined environments such as water diffusion and transport in the channels of cell membranes, in carbon nanotubes and along grain boundaries and at mineral interfaces in a host of geological environments.

ORNL co-author Lawrence Anovitz noted that the discovery is apt to spark discussions among materials, biological, geological and computational scientists as they attempt to explain the mechanism behind this phenomenon and understand how it applies to their materials.

“This discovery represents a new fundamental understanding of the behaviour of water and the way water utilizes energy,” Anovitz said. “It’s also interesting to think that those water molecules in your aquamarine or emerald ring – blue and green varieties of beryl – is undergoing the same quantum tunnelling we’ve seen in our experiments.”

“The average kinetic energy of the water protons directly obtained from the neutron experiment is a measure of their motion at almost absolute zero temperature and is about 30 percent less than it is in bulk liquid or solid water,” Kolesnikov said.

First principle simulations made by Narayani Choudhury of Lake Washington Institute of Technology and University of Washington-Bothell showed that the tunnelling behaviour is coupled to the vibrational dynamics of the beryl structure.

Co-authors of the paperwere Timothy Prisk, Eugene Mamontov, Andrey Podlesnyak, George Ehlers and David Wesolowski of ORNL, George Reiter of the University of Houston and Andrew Seel of Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Funding for this research was provided by DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

© ORNL News

0 Comments

Login

Your Comments (Up to 2000 characters)
Please respect our community and the integrity of its participants. WOC reserves the right to moderate and approve your comment.

Related News


Flipping a chemical switch helps perovskite solar cells beat the heat

PROVIDENCE, US: Thin films of crystalline materials called perovskites provide a promising new way of making inexpensive and efficient solar cells. No ...

Read more
Showa Denko’s stronger aluminium plate for mobile devices

TOKYO, JAPAN: Showa Denko KK (SDK) has developed “ST60-HSM” aluminium plate, a new grade product of ST60-series aluminium plates whic ...

Read more
Lanxess acquires Chemours’ clean, disinfect biz for €210 million

COLOGNE, GERMANY: Lanxess AG said it will acquire Chemours’ clean and disinfect specialties business for €210 million, expanding Lanxess&rs ...

Read more
Biochemists shed new light on global energy, food supply challenge

LOGAN, US: All living things require nitrogen for survival, but the world depends on only two known processes to break nitrogen’s ultra-strong b ...

Read more
ExxonMobil and employees give $2.6 mn for education in Pennsylvania

IRVING, US: ExxonMobil Corporation and its employees contributed $2.6 million to higher education institutions across Pennsylvania as part of the Exxo ...

Read more
Meghmani Finechem opens caustic potash plant in India

MUMBAI, INDIA: Meghmani Finechem Limited, a subsidiary of Meghmani Organics Limited (MOL), has commenced commercial production at the caustic potash-f ...

Read more