Water Electric

ISIS Report 25/06/09

Water charges up with electricity when exposed to sunlight, offering the potential for an inexhaustible supply of squeaking clean energy and challenging conventional understanding of bioenergetics Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Put some water next to any hydrophilic (water-loving) surface and expose it to sunlight, or even light from an ordinary light bulb, and the water will charge up with electricity all by itself. This is the latest in a series of extraordinary discoveries about water from the laboratory of US bioengineer Gerald Pollack at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Water forms massive exclusion zones of ordered molecules next to gel surfaces It began when Pollack and his student Zheng Jian-ming discovered that suspensions of colloids and dissolved substances are excluded from a region extending some hundreds of micrometres from the surfaces of hydrophilic gels [1] (Water Forms Massive Exclusion Zones, SiS 23). An ‘exclusion zone’ (EZ) of this magnitude is in direct contradiction to the generally held assumption that interfacial water forming at liquid-solid, or liquid-air interfaces can be no more than a few layers of molecules thick. Instead, what’s observed is a million layers or more.

Similar exclusion zones were found next to any hydrophilic surface including surfaces coated with a monolayer of hydrophilic molecules, and around ion exchange resin beads [2] (see Fig. 1). Electric charge appears to be important, as EZ failed to form around charge-exhausted resin beads. Although EZ can form in pure water, it is enhanced and stabilized by low concentrations of buffer (2 to 10 mM at pH 7).

Figure 1. Exclusion zones millions of layers of water molecules deep clear of suspended microspheres form around charged resin beads

The EZ was characterized by several spectroscopic methods, all of which showed that it had features very different from the bulk water, suggesting an unusually ordered crystalline phase where the molecules are less free to move [3, 4] (Liquid Crystalline Water at the Interface, SiS 38). The UV and visible absorption spectrum gave a single absorption peak at ~270 nm in the UV region, which is completely absent in the bulk phase. The infrared emission record showed that the EZ radiates very little compared with bulk water, as would be expected on account of the reduced mobility of water molecules. The magnetic resonance imaging mapping similarly gave a transverse relaxation time (T2) of 25.4 + 1 ms, which is shorter than the 27.1 + 0.4 ms recorded for the bulk water phase, again indicative of restricted motion.

Such coexistence of distinctly different phases has been demonstrated in 1999 in by Japanese water researcher Norio Ise and colleagues in Kyoto University [5] (Water and Colloid Crystals, SiS 32) using a dispersion of colloid latex particles in water and digital video recording. They captured a random phase, in which thermal motion of the particles is of the anticipated magnitude, right next to a crystal-like phase where the particles had separated regularly from one another by several micrometres and the deviations from their average positions are lower by an order of magnitude

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