Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Surprising new water property discovered

13.05.2004


At a microscopic level, water molecules behave rather like the needle of a compass. Just as the needle moves when surrounded by a magnetic field (such as that of the Earth), water molecules move slightly in one direction when there is an electric field. Or at least that is what physicists thought till now. Research at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona has shown that, in water trapped in the bubbles of a detergent, it is not quite like that: water molecules have a surprising ability to organize themselves in complex structures, which, when in the presence of the detergent’s electric field (created by the action of certain chemical compounds), organize themselves to cancel this out and even invert it.


Image of computer simulations of water molecules behaviour



Professors Jordi Faraudo of the Department of Physics at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Fernando Bresme, from London University’s Imperial College, publish this surprising result in Physical Review Letters. Their paper deals with a fascinating discovery on the nature of water that will allow us to better understand complex behaviour such as that of biological membranes.

The research has been carried out by means of simulations, using supercomputers, of the behaviour of water molecules and their interaction with the molecules of a chemical compound frequently used in commercial detergents called SDS. In the simulations, carried out in Europe’s most powerful supercomputer laboratories in Edinburgh, the scientists have observed completely abnormal behaviour.


Current theories led us to believe that the detergent compound SDS acted to produce an electric field around itself by simply orienting neighbouring water molecules without significantly changing the normal properties of water. Thus, it was thought that the molecules aligned themselves with the applied electric field just as a compass needle does in the magnetic field of the Earth. This phenomenon is known as water polarization and is well known by scientists, having important implications for biological and chemical processes related with electrical interactions in water: interaction between membranes, the formation of films and foams, and colloidal stability, among others.

However, the results obtained by this research show that, under certain circumstances, water prefers to behave in a completely abnormal way and to organize itself. In prime films formed by water and SDS (such as those found in foam and bubbles), water molecules are immobilized and cluster together forming special structures, about three molecules thick, around the SDS molecules. Behaving in this way, water manages to completely cancel out the electric field created by the detergent and even to invert it. Hence, to the contrary of what was thought up to now, the action of these detergent chemical compounds is determined mainly by how far water molecules “tolerate” or oppose their presence.

Octavi López Coronado | alfa
Further information:
http://www.uab.es/uabdivulga/eng

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Insights into the origin of life: how the first protocells divided
19.02.2020 | Universität Augsburg

nachricht Superresolution live-cell imaging provides unexpected insights into the dynamic structure of mitochondria
18.02.2020 | Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Freiburg researcher investigate the origins of surface texture

Most natural and artificial surfaces are rough: metals and even glasses that appear smooth to the naked eye can look like jagged mountain ranges under the microscope. There is currently no uniform theory about the origin of this roughness despite it being observed on all scales, from the atomic to the tectonic. Scientists suspect that the rough surface is formed by irreversible plastic deformation that occurs in many processes of mechanical machining of components such as milling.

Prof. Dr. Lars Pastewka from the Simulation group at the Department of Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg and his team have simulated such...

Im Focus: Skyrmions like it hot: Spin structures are controllable even at high temperatures

Investigation of the temperature dependence of the skyrmion Hall effect reveals further insights into possible new data storage devices

The joint research project of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that had previously demonstrated...

Im Focus: Making the internet more energy efficient through systemic optimization

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently completed a 5-year research project looking at how to make fibre optic communications systems more energy efficient. Among their proposals are smart, error-correcting data chip circuits, which they refined to be 10 times less energy consumptive. The project has yielded several scientific articles, in publications including Nature Communications.

Streaming films and music, scrolling through social media, and using cloud-based storage services are everyday activities now.

Im Focus: New synthesis methods enhance 3D chemical space for drug discovery

After helping develop a new approach for organic synthesis -- carbon-hydrogen functionalization -- scientists at Emory University are now showing how this approach may apply to drug discovery. Nature Catalysis published their most recent work -- a streamlined process for making a three-dimensional scaffold of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry.

"Our tools open up whole new chemical space for potential drug targets," says Huw Davies, Emory professor of organic chemistry and senior author of the paper.

Im Focus: Quantum fluctuations sustain the record superconductor

Superconductivity approaching room temperature may be possible in hydrogen-rich compounds at much lower pressures than previously expected

Reaching room-temperature superconductivity is one of the biggest dreams in physics. Its discovery would bring a technological revolution by providing...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: Around 70 Laureates set to meet with young scientists from approx. 100 countries

12.02.2020 | Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Time-resolved measurement in a memory device

19.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Mixed-signal hardware security thwarts powerful electromagnetic attacks

19.02.2020 | Information Technology

Could water solve the renewable energy storage challenge?

19.02.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>