Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have confirmed the original model of the molecular structure of water and have thus made it possible to resolve a long-standing scientific controversy about the structure of liquid water.
Model of a symmetrical four bond water molecule (oxygen red and hydrogen white)
ill./©: Thomas D. Kühne
The tetrahedral model was first postulated nearly 100 years ago and it assumes that every water molecule forms a so-called hydrogen bond with four adjacent molecules. This concept was almost toppled in 2004 when an international research group announced that it had experimentally established that water molecules form bonds only with two other molecules."The quality of the results was excellent but they merely represent a snapshot of the situation," explained Professor Dr. Thomas Kühne. He has demonstrated the fallacy of the 'double bonding' theory using computer simulations based on new types of combinations of two computational methods recently developed by his group.
The results reported in 2004 using x-ray absorption spectroscopy were obtained using water molecules with high levels of momentary asymmetry, which is why essentially only two strong hydrogen bonds were observed in an otherwise tetrahedral structure. "Our findings have important implications as they help reconcile the symmetric and asymmetric views on the structure of water," write the scientists in an article published in Nature Communications. The results may also be relevant to research into molecular and biological systems in aqueous solutions and provide insight into protein folding, for example.The work of Thomas Kühne's group was undertaken within an interdisciplinary joint project and was funded by the Research Unit Center for Computational Sciences at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.
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