For 20 years, the scientific activity of Professor Vittorio Elia, an Italian chemist, has mainly focused on the study of the properties of water. In his opinion, it is the most examined liquid in the world, which nevertheless still presents many unknown factors.
Professor Vittorio Elia was born in Naples on April 12, 1941. In 1964, he graduated in Chemistry from the University of Naples Federico II (one of the world’s oldest institution). From 1972, he was a professor in charge of general, analytical and physical chemistry, and in 1973, he won a position as an assistant at the Faculty of Sciences. After 10 years, Elia became an assistant professor at the Department of Physical Chemistry. Since 1988, he has been a professor of electrochemistry at the Faculty of Chemistry, University of Naples1. Prof. Elia has studied the physical-chemical properties of aqueous solutions of different substances for approximately 40 years, with a total production of over 100 scientific papers2.
Professor Vittorio Elia at the FIAMO conference, Naples 2013. Source: http://www.fiamo.it/vittorio-elia-fiamo-napoli-2013/
In the late 1990s, Vittorio Elia and his colleagues began their studies on the so-called “extremely diluted solutions” (EDS) of different substances that were generally used in the production of homeopathic preparations (e.g. arsenic compounds). The researchers obtained EDSs via several successive 1:100 dilutions of a stock solution with double distilled (bidistilled) water. After each dilution, the sample was thoroughly succussed. Consequently, the concentration of the solute decreased and the final solution, from the chemical perspective (as highlighted by the authors), was no longer different from the solvent, i.e. it was bidistilled water.
The researchers studied these EDSs and found some physical-chemical properties that distinguished EDSs from ordinary water. The heat excreted when the EDSs are mixed with acids or bases was measured using calorimetric methods (mixing of bases or acids with water produces an exothermic reaction, i.e. is accompanied by the evolution of heat). The detected heat was found to be higher than that of bidistilled water by 92%. This effect was stable and lasted for several weeks after the preparation of the EDSs3. The later studies demonstrated that the rate of changes increased very slowly, and, therefore, these changes could be detected only after several months4-5). The physical absence of solute molecules in a solution due to its extreme dilution led the researchers to suggest that successive dilutions and succussions may alter the physical-chemical properties of the solvent itself (water)3.
Prof. Elia and his colleagues continued their research and studied the electrical conductivity and pH of the EDSs. The values obtained were found to be ‘in excess’ compared to those of pure water4. Moreover, the researchers reported that the rate of changes in the physical-chemical parameters increased with time. Thus, after several months (and even years), these values might increase by more than 100% compared to those of pure water, and this was only true for those EDSs that were prepared through iterative dilutions followed by succussion4,5. Evidence of another phenomenon was also found: changes in the physical-chemical parameters with time were only present in those EDSs that were stored in small volumes (less than 20ml)5, with no temperature-dependent changes found in the samples when stored at 5 to 60°С6. The researchers emphasized that they were not able to identify any particular factors underlying an increase in the physical-chemical parameters of EDSs: it depended neither on the nature of the solute, nor on the degree of dilution5.
Vittorio Elia and the specialists from the University of Bologna also studied the effects of the EDSs on biological objects7. The research group found that the extremely diluted arsenic solution (As2O3) stimulated wheat germination when wheat seeds had been stressed with a sub-lethal dose of 0.1% As2O3. The effects were only observed when the wheat seeds were treated with the extremely diluted arsenic solution prepared using succussion and aged (stored) for more than 3 months. Besides, the extremely diluted arsenic solution had no effect at 100°C, however, its efficacy increased by heating to 70°C7. Unfortunately, the authors did not investigate or discuss the possible mechanisms of the EDSs’ effect on seed germination, and noted only that the results presented were preliminary to a further research work on the effects of the EDSs on biological materials7.
What underlies these changes in the physicochemical properties of water described by Vittorio Elia and his colleagues? In general, the researchers believe that these phenomena may be explained by the structural units emerging in water, i.e. the aggregates of water molecules or molecular clusters4,5. According to the researchers, specific conditions may induce the “self-organization” of water molecules into a kind of a “structure”. The theory is analyzed and explained in terms of the thermodynamics of far-from-equilibrium systems and quantum electrodynamics8. Since the main reason for energy dissipation (heat generation in this case) is the interaction of minor structural elements of the substance, the researchers think that the excess heat of the EDSs in their experiments may be explained by the presence of larger numbers of ordered structures in the ultra-high dilutions compared to untreated water5,8.
The time evolution of some physical-chemical parameters may indicate an increase in the number and/or size of aggregates in water5,8. As for the volume dependence, the authors say that small volumes of water will contain a higher ‘concentration’ of molecular aggregates in comparison with larger volumes, and the physicochemical parameters depend on the number, size and shape of the dissipative structures in a solution5. An explanation of the increased electrical conductivity of the EDSs may be based on the so-called ‘hopping mechanism’. If H2O molecular clusters are present in the solution, bonded by hydrogen bonds, the hydrogen ions H+ colliding them experience the ‘hopping’ phenomenon: the water molecules catch an H+ ion at one end of the cluster and release instantaneously another H+ ion at the other end of the cluster. Thus, the conductivity is increased, and the greater the number of the clusters and/or their length, the higher the conductivity value and the measured heat effect4,5.
The researchers drew conclusions on the presence of stable nanostructures (of several hundreds of nanometers) in EDSs on the basis of indirect data obtained by calorimetric, conductometric and pH measurements as well as direct measurements by UV spectroscopy, fluorescence microscopy and even by lyophilisation (drying) of EDS samples followed by Fourier Transformed Infrared spectroscopy and Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)9.
According to Elia and his colleagues, there are other methods that induce the formation of stable water nanostructures. One of these methods is the iterative filtration process. MilliQ (ultrapure) water of a given volume (1-10ml) was passed through filters with porosities of 25, 100, 200 and 450 nm, up to 250 times, and, as in experiments with EDSs, the heat of mixing of the water with acid or basic solution, its conductivity, density and pH were then measured. As with the EDSs, the filtered water was found to have increased heat, conductivity and pH values, compared to the control. Its efficacy increased with the number of filtrations. The parameters of EDSs were also affected by the age and volume of samples. A different phenomenology was observed for the 25 nm filter. In this case, as the authors suggested, the very small diameter of the pores prevented the largest water molecules aggregates from reaching the filtered liquid, thus removing the largest contribution to an increase in conductivity10.
Another method of water ordering, according to Vittorio Elia, was its iterative contact with Nafion polymer electrolyte membranes. The membrane was placed in a Petri capsule in contact with water for several hours, and then it was removed and dried, and again immersed in water. The process was repeated 10-20 times. The physical-chemical parameters of water, after keeping it in prolonged contact with the Nafion polymer, changed like those of the EDSs or iteratively filtered water11,12. As suggested by the authors, the interaction between water and Nafion hydrophilic polymers created a zone of highly ordered water at the liquid-solid interface, that in its turn exerted ordering effects on the whole volume of water11,12. According to Vittorio Elia and his colleagues, immersing cellulose, a very common organic polymer, into water endows the water with some ordering properties13.
It should be noted that, according to the Italian researchers, water nanostructures after iterative filtrations or immersion of Nafion membranes can be formed quite fast (within several days), whereas the preparation of EDS samples takes months or years. However, the possible mechanisms of the implementation of this phenomenon are not discussed. Despite these variations, the researchers believe that the changes in the physical-chemical properties caused by any of the three water treatment processes have similar nature and are characterized by the formation of stable nanostructures in water.
The idea of water as a system capable of self-organization induced by different chemical, mechanical or electromagnetic stimuli has been the main topic in Vittorio Elia’s work over the last years. Nevertheless, the obtained results still need to be confirmed, with more detailed explanations provided by specialists in theoretical physics and chemistry.
3. Elia, V., Niccoli, M. (1999). Thermodynamics of Extremely Diluted Aqueous Solutions. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 879 (1 TEMPOS IN SCI), 241–248.
4. Elia, V., Niccoli, M. (2004). New Physico-Chemical Properties of Extremely Diluted Aqueous Solutions. Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry, 75(3), 815–836.
5. Elia, V., Napoli, E., Germano, R. (2007). The “Memory of Water”: an almost deciphered enigma. Dissipative structures in extremely dilute aqueous solutions. Homeopathy, 96(3), 163–169.
6. Elia, V., Napoli, E., Niccoli, M. (2013). On the stability of extremely diluted solutions to temperature. Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry, 113(2), 963–970.
7. Brizzi, M., Elia, V., Trebbi, G., Nani, D., Peruzzi, M., Betti, L. (2011). The Efficacy of Ultramolecular Aqueous Dilutions on a Wheat Germination Model as a Function of Heat and Aging-Time. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011, 1–11.
8. Elia V, Germano R, Napoli E. (2015). Permanent dissipative structures in water: the matrix of life? Experimental evidences and their quantum origin. Curr Top Med Chem. 15(6):559-71.
9. Elia, V., Ausanio, G., Gentile, F., Germano, R., Napoli, E., Niccoli, M. (2014). Experimental evidence of stable water nanostructures in extremely dilute solutions, at standard pressure and temperature. Homeopathy, 103(1), 44–50.
10. Elia, V., Marchettini, N., Napoli, E., Niccoli, M. (2013). Calorimetric, conductometric and density measurements of iteratively filtered water using 450, 200, 100 and 25 nm Millipore filters. Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry, 114(2), 927–936.
11. Elia, V., Napoli, E., Niccoli, M. (2013). Physical-chemical study of water in contact with a hydrophilic polymer: Nafion. Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry, 112(2), 937–944
12. Elia, V., Lista, L., Napoli, E., Niccoli, M. (2014). A thermodynamic characterization of aqueous nanostructures of water molecules formed by prolonged contact with the hydrophilic polymer Nafion. Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry, 115(2), 1841–1849.
13. Elia V., Oliva, R., Napoli, E., Germano, R., Pinto, G., Lista, L., Niccoli M, Toso D, Vitiello G, Trifuoggi M, Giarra A, Yinnon TA. (2018). Experimental study of physicochemical changes in water by iterative contact with hydrophilic polymers: A comparison between Cellulose and Nafion. Journal of Molecular Liquids, 268, 598–609.