Recent experimental results threatened to overturn 100 years of scientific research into the mysterious nature of liquid water, but new experimental results say ... not so fast! A team of scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, has shown that the energy required to “measurably distort” the molecular structure of liquid water is the same as the energy required to melt ice. This could explain why a study last spring out of Stanford University seemed to contradict what was has long been believed about the molecular structure of liquid water.
Using the ultrabright x-ray beams at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source and a unique experimental technique of their own, the Berkeley researchers, led by chemist Richard Saykally, found that 1.5 kcal/mol is the average energy required to distort or bend a hydrogen bond in both solid and liquid water. The Stanford measurement of these hydrogen bond distortions was based on theoretical calculations rather than experiments. As a result, it appeared that most of the molecules in liquid water only interact with two other water molecules, as opposed to the traditional picture in which nearly every water molecule interacts with four other water molecules.
“Our results certainly do not disprove the conclusions of the elegant Stanford experiment, but we do present an alternative way to interpret their experiments that is consistent with the standard view of liquid water structure,” says Saykally, who holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division and UC Berkeley’s Chemistry Department.
Lynn Yarris | EurekAlert!
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