Nav: Home

Water is more homogeneous than expected

February 20, 2019

Water at ambient conditions is the matrix of life and chemistry and behaves anomalously in many of its properties. Since Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, two distinct separate phases have been argued to coexist in liquid water, competing with the other view of a single-phase liquid in a fluctuating hydrogen bonding network - the continuous distribution model. Over time, X-ray spectroscopic methods have repeatedly been interpreted in support of Röntgen's postulate.

An international team of researchers, led in their effort by Prof. A. Föhlisch from Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and the University of Potsdam, conducted quantitative and high-resolution X-ray spectroscopic multi-method investigations and analysis to address these diverging views at the light sources BESSY II, European Synchrotron Radiation Facility ESRF and Swiss Light Source.

They establish that the X-ray spectroscopic observables can be fully and consistently described with continuous distribution models of near-tetrahedral liquid water at ambient conditions with 1.74 ± 2.1% donated and accepted H-bonds per molecule. In addition, across the full phase diagram of water, clear correlations to e.g. second shell coordination is established and the influence of ultrafast dynamics associated with X-ray matter interaction is separated and quantified.

Can these X-ray spectroscopic conclusions on water at ambient conditions now also resolve the heavily debated question of the existence of a second critical point in the so-called "no man's land" of supercooled water? This postulated second critical point is conceptually based on the extension of the established low- and high-density amorphous ice phases into purported low- and high-density liquid phases along a Widom line where the second critical point is found as the extrapolated divergence of stable and supercooled water's thermodynamic response functions around -45°C at atmospheric pressure.

From the physics of critical fluctuations, it is known, that well above a critical point one should view the state of matter as homogeneous. Incipient and large fluctuations are allowed as one approaches closely the phase boundary and the critical point: How close one has to approach it in energy and on what time scale to sense the divergence is not fully answered, but expectations from observations in solid state physics are that you have to be close to realize the 2-phase effects.

Even if the purported second critical point at -45°C and ambient pressure existed, the ambient conditions of liquid water in equilibrium would be by any means far away in temperature. Thus, the fluctuating continuous distribution model of near-tetrahedral liquid water at ambient conditions holds true independent of whether the second critical point of water in the supercooled region exists or not.
-end-


Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie

Related Physics Articles:

Diamonds coupled using quantum physics
Researchers at TU Wien have succeeded in coupling the specific defects in two such diamonds with one another.
The physics of wealth inequality
A Duke engineering professor has proposed an explanation for why the income disparity in America between the rich and poor continues to grow.
Physics can predict wealth inequality
The 2016 election year highlighted the growing problem of wealth inequality and finding ways to help the people who are falling behind.
Physics: Toward a practical nuclear pendulum
Researchers from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) Munich have, for the first time, measured the lifetime of an excited state in the nucleus of an unstable element.
Flowers use physics to attract pollinators
A new review indicates that flowers may be able to manipulate the laws of physics, by playing with light, using mechanical tricks, and harnessing electrostatic forces to attract pollinators.
Physics, photosynthesis and solar cells
A University of California, Riverside assistant professor has combined photosynthesis and physics to make a key discovery that could help make solar cells more efficient.
2-D physics
Physicist Andrea Young receives a 2016 Packard Fellowship to pursue his studies of van der Waals heterostructures.
Cats seem to grasp the laws of physics
Cats understand the principle of cause and effect as well as some elements of physics.
Plasma physics' giant leap
For the first time, scientists are looking at real data -- not computer models, but direct observation -- about what is happening in the fascinating region where the Earth's magnetic field breaks and then joins with the interplanetary magnetic field.
Nuclear physics' interdisciplinary progress
The theoretical view of the structure of the atom nucleus is not carved in stone.

Related Physics Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".