Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Water flows like molasses on the nanoscale

27.04.2007
A Georgia Tech research team has discovered that water exhibits very different properties when it is confined to channels less than two nanometers wide – behaving much like a viscous fluid with a viscosity approaching that of molasses. Determining the properties of water on the nanoscale may prove important for biological and pharmaceutical research as well as nanotechnology. The research appears in the March 15 issue of the journal Physical Review B.

In its bulk liquid form, water is a disordered medium that flows very readily. When most substances are compressed into a solid, their density increases. But water is different; when it becomes ice, it becomes less dense. For this reason, many scientists reasoned that when water is compressed (as it is in a nanometer-sized channel), it should maintain its liquid properties and shouldn't exhibit properties that are akin to a solid. Several earlier studies came to that very conclusion – that water confined in a nano-space behaves just like water does in the macro world. Consequently, a number of scientists considered the case to be closed.

But when Georgia Tech experimental physicist Elisa Riedo and her team directly measured the force of pure water in a nanometer-sized channel, they found evidence suggesting that water was organized into layers. Riedo conducted these measurements by recording the force placed on a silicon tip of an atomic force microscope as it compressed water. The water was confined in a nanoscale thin film on top of a solid surface.

"Since water usually has a low viscosity, the force you would expect to feel as you compress it should be very small," said Riedo, assistant professor in Georgia Tech's School of Physics. "But when we did the experiment, we found that when the distance between the tip and the surface is about one nanometer, we feel a repulsive force by the water that is much stronger than what we would expect."

As the tip compresses the water even more, the repulsive force oscillates, indicating that the water molecules are forming layers. As the tip continues to increase its pressure on a layer, the layer collapses and the water flows out horizontally.

"In effect, the confined water film behaves effectively like a solid in the vertical direction by forming layers parallel to the confining tip and surface, while maintaining it's liquidity in the horizontal direction where it can flow out – resembling some phases of liquid crystals," said Uzi Landman, director of the Center for Computational Materials Science, Regents' and Institute professor, and Callaway Chair of Physics at Georgia Tech.

A theoretical physicist, Landman conducted the first-ever computer simulations of these forces for tip-confined water films and found good correspondence between his team's theoretical predictions and the experiments.

So why did Riedo and Landman's results differ from their peers? According to Landman, most previous studies on confined water were limited by technology at the time and could not directly measure the behavior in the last two nanometers. Instead they had to measure other properties and infer the forces acting in films of one nanometer thickness or less.

"If you want force, it is preferable to measure it," he said. "This is the first experiment to directly measure the force and it's the first simulation done of these forces. The fact that we have direct measurements married with theoretical results is rather conclusive."

Riedo and Landman conducted their experiments in several different environments. They found that the layering effect was more pronounced when water was placed on top of hydrophilic surfaces that allow water to wet the solid surface, such as glass. When the water was confined by hydrophobic surfaces where water tends to bead up, like graphite, the effect was still present, but less pronounced.

At the same time, Riedo's team was measuring the vertical force exerted on the tip by the confined water film, they also measured the film viscosity by measuring the lateral force. They found that when water was placed on a hydrophilic surface, the viscosity began to increase dramatically as the thickness of the confined film reached the 1.5 nanometer range. As they continued to compress the water and measure the lateral forces, the viscosity increased by a factor of 1,000 to 10,000.

On hydrophobic surfaces, they did not see such an increase in viscosity. The results of the molecular dynamics simulations support these findings, showing a dramatically decreased mobility for sub-nanometer thick water films under hydrophilic confinement.

"Water is a wonderful lubricant," said Riedo, "but it flows too easily for many applications. At the one nanometer scale, water is a viscous fluid and could be a much better lubricant."

Understanding the properties of water at this scale could also be important for biological and pharmaceutical research, especially in understanding processes that depend on hydrated ionic transport through nanoscale channels and pores.

Riedo and Landman's next steps are to introduce impurities in the water to study how that affects its properties.

David Terraso | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.gatech.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Northern oceans pumped CO2 into the atmosphere

27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Big data approach to predict protein structure

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>