Library Simple Science
Click to enlarge Click to watch video Click to follow link
Exceptional water
Exceptional water

“Our shoes are carrying around a blob of water.” – says scientist Gerald Pollack in his TED talk. “Why? It's because water is everywhere: it is in our cells, in the air we breathe, in space”.

It would seem that we know everything about water. In fact, scientists have yet to discover many unknown properties of this unique substance.

How are clouds formed in the sky? Why do raindrops linger for a while on the surface of water before merging with it? How does a Central American lizard walk on water?

In the first half of the 20th century, the American scientist William Harkins advanced the theory that, in addition to the solid, liquid and gaseous phases of water known to us, somewhere on the solid and liquid boundary there is another phase, which supposedly has a gel-like consistency.

Dr. Gerald Pollack, professor of bioengineering at Washington University, and his colleagues became interested in this theory and began studying the properties of water at the boundary between the solid and liquid phases. Scientists have discovered that at a distance of 10 micrometres (0.01 mm) from a hydrophilic material (one that interacts well with water), layers of water are formed that have a special ordered structure. It is surprising that all particles present in the water were 'excluded' from these layers. This zone was named the 'exclusion zone' (EZ), which consists of many layers, similar to a honeycomb. At the same time, Pollack's team of scientists discovered an interesting feature: the water molecules in the EZ have the structural formula H3O2, and not the usual H2O!

Another distinctive feature of EZ water was also found. In the system they studied, the EZ itself turned out to be negatively charged, and the positive charge was located outside its limits.

Exceptional waterСharge distribution near EZ

It also transpired that an EZ formed around a raindrop that fell into the water. A positively charged shell forms around its structure surrounded by a negative charge. When drops with a negative superficial charge are near, they unite due to a connection that is established between them through an area with a positive charge.

Exceptional waterInteraction of two drops

As is well known, the atmosphere contains water in the form of aerosol drops. The negatively charged EZ of such droplets interacts with the positive charge of the region between them. As a result, aerosol droplets combine to condense into clouds.

The stability of raindrops on the water's surface is also due to the presence of charged EZ shells.

Exceptional waterCharged shell of EZ around the drop

According to its properties, EZ water has a gel-like character. It is this property of water that allows the plumed basilisk lizard (basiliscus plumifrons) to walk on lake surface. The ratio of the lizard's mass to the surface area it occupies allows it to remain on the dense gel-like surface of the lake.

How can this knowledge be applied?

It is possible to get energy from water. In his works, Pollack compares water to a battery that can be charged, exerting an influence on the system with light of a different nature.

Since all impurities (for example, salt) are removed from the EZ, this phenomenon can also be used for water purification, as well as its desalination.

Since the EZ is formed around each molecule in the cell, this phenomenon can be used to control various biological processes.

In summary, it is safe to say that research into the fourth phase of water is certainly promising and could seriously affect our quality of life.