Scientists prove that water has several liquid states


Water is a liquid with many unique properties.
The way it responds to changes in pressure and temperature can be completely different from other liquids we know, and these properties are essential for many practical applications and particularly for life as we know it.

What causes these anomalies has been a source of scientific inspiration with several theoretical explanations, but now an international team of scientists, which includes Nicolas Giovambattista, professor at The Graduate Center, CUNY and chairman of the Department of Physics at Brooklyn College, USA, has proven that water can exist in two different liquid states – a discovery that may explain many of the anomalous properties of water, advances the scientific portal EurekAlert.

The investigation appears in an article published in the November 20 issue of the journal Science. The possibility that water could exist in two different liquid states was proposed about 30 years ago, based on results obtained in computer simulations ”, said Giovambattista. “This counter-intuitive hypothesis has been one of the most important issues in the chemistry and physics of water, and a controversial scenario since its beginnings. This is because the experiments that can access the two liquid states in the water have been very challenging due to the formation of ice apparently inevitable in the conditions where the two liquids should exist. ”

The normal “liquid” state of the water with which we are familiar corresponds to liquid water at normal temperatures (approximately 25 degrees centigrade). However, the article shows that water at low temperatures (approximately -63 centigrade) exists in two different liquid states, a low density liquid at low pressures and a high density liquid at high pressures.

These two liquids have visibly different properties and differ by 20% in density. The results imply that under appropriate conditions, water must exist as two immiscible liquids separated by a thin interface similar to the coexistence of oil and water.

As water is one of the most important substances on Earth – the solvent of life as we know it – its phase behavior plays a key role in different fields, including biochemistry, climate, cryopreservation, cryobiology, materials science and in many industrial sectors , processes in which water acts as a solvent, product, reagent or impurity. It is concluded that unusual characteristics in the phase behavior of water, such as the presence of two liquid states, can affect numerous scientific and engineering applications.

“It remains an open question how the presence of two liquids can affect the behavior of aqueous solutions in general and, in particular, how the two liquids can affect biomolecules in aqueous environments,” said Giovambattista. “This motivates further studies in the search for potential applications.”

The international team used complex experiments and computer simulations to prove this theory. The experiments, described as “similar to science fiction” by Giovambattista, were carried out by Swedish, Korean and American scientists. Computer simulations were performed by Giovambattista and Peter H. Poole, professor at St. Francis Xavier University, in Canada. Computer simulations played an important role in the interpretation of experiments, due to their complexity.

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