Monday, May 13, 2019

Scientists have discovered the loss of water polarizability

Water is a fundamental liquid for life to exist, and among its many characteristics, it has a powerful response to the application of an electric field. However, it has been discovered that when it is in very thin layers it loses its polarizability.

A group of researchers including the Nobel Prize for Physics André Geim and Dr. Laura Fumagalli, who is attached to the National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, together with colleagues belonging to the University of Barcelona and the National Institute for Materials Science of Japan, have made an interesting discovery.

The scientists in question detected that when the water is in thin layers of a few molecules of thickness, its behavior is totally different from the normal water that is known.

Characteristics of water polarizability

With the use of novel techniques, the researchers had the opportunity to make a measurement of the dielectric properties of water, with only a few molecules of thickness.

With this measurement, it was demonstrated that this water layer of atomic thickness, when it is in the vicinity of solid surfaces has no response before an electric field.

Resolving the controversy regarding the polarizability of water

For some time, many types of research tried to know the behavior of water on a microscopic scale in the presence of solid surfaces, other substances, and macromolecules but had not been successful in that task.

According to Dr. Laura Fumagalli, all surfaces are covered by a thin layer of water, which has few atoms of thickness, it is not possible to see it, but it is there.

As for the behavior of surface water, there was the assumption that this was different from normal water, whose dielectric constant is abnormally high. However, it was presumed that water in thin layers could have a reduced response, but that value had not yet been determined.

Then, the researchers with the use of innovative tools such as the creation of special channels of only angstroms in size, which allowed the accommodation of a few layers of water, were given the task of making the measurement.

It is convenient to point out, that an angstrom is a tenth of a nanometer. Once the special channels were created and the water was accommodated in them, a new measurement was made to know the dielectric constant of the water contained in them.

What they found was a weakened electrical response from the water confined to these nanochannels, meaning that this water was literally dead and totally unable to detect any external electric field.

According to this result, it is evident that when there are large volumes of water, its behavior is different from that which occurs when the water layer is very thin.

This becomes an element that exalts academic curiosity, which favors the theory that indicates that the electrical interactions of water molecules have an important role in the formation of biological molecules, among which are proteins, which collaborates in the understanding of the role it plays in the water in technological processes.

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