Researchers Prove Water Has Multiple Liquid States With Noticeably Different Properties

Stylized Water

A newly published Science journal paper reveals that water can exist as two liquids of differing density.

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

What causes these anomalies has long been a source of scientific inspiration with various theoretical explanations, but now an international team of researchers, which includes Nicolas Giovambattista, a professor at The Graduate Center, CUNY and chair for the Department of Physics at Brooklyn College, has proved that water can exist in two different liquid states — a finding that can explain many of water’s anomalous properties. Their research appears in a paper published in the November 20 issue of the journal Science.

Two Water Liquids

The above graphic offers a conceptual view of how water can exist in two liquid states separated by a thin interface. The bottom liquid is more dense than the one on top, because it is composed of water molecules that are more closely packed. Credit: Jerker Lokrantz and Anders Nilsson

The possibility that water could exist in two different liquid states was proposed approximately 30 years ago, based on results obtained from computer simulations,” Giovambattista said. “This counterintuitive hypothesis has been one of the most important questions in the chemistry and physics of water, and a controversial scenario since its beginnings. This is because experiments that can access the two liquid states in water have been very challenging due to the apparently unavoidable ice formation at the conditions where the two liquids should exist.”

The usual “liquid” state of water that we are all familiar with corresponds to liquid water at normal temperatures (approximately 25 centigrade). However, the paper 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 noticeably different properties and differ by 20% in density. The results imply that at appropriate conditions, water should exist as two immiscible liquids separated by a thin interface similar to the coexistence of oil and water.

Because water is one of the most important substances on Earth — the solvent of life as we know it — its phase behavior plays a fundamental role in different fields, including biochemistry, climate, cryopreservation, cryobiology, material science, and in many industrial processes where water acts as a solvent, product, reactant, or impurity. It follows 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 may affect the behavior of aqueous solutions in general, and in particular, how the two liquids may affect biomolecules in aqueous environments,” Giovambattista said. “This motivates further studies in the search for potential applications.”

Reference: “Experimental observation of the liquid-liquid transition in bulk supercooled water under pressure” by Kyung Hwan Kim, Katrin Amann-Winkel, Nicolas Giovambattista, Alexander Späh, Fivos Perakis, Harshad Pathak, Marjorie Ladd Parada, Cheolhee Yang, Daniel Mariedahl, Tobias Eklund, Thomas. J. Lane, Seonju You, Sangmin Jeong, Matthew Weston, Jae Hyuk Lee, Intae Eom, Minseok Kim, Jaeku Park, Sae Hwan Chun, Peter H. Poole and  Anders Nilsson, 20 November 2020, Science.
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb9385

Giovambattista is a member of the Physics and Chemistry Ph.D. programs at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY).

The international team, led by Anders Nilsson, professor of chemical physics at Stockholm University, used complex experiments and computer simulations to prove this theory. The experiments, described as “science-fiction-like” by Giovambattista, were performed by colleagues at Stockholm University in Sweden, POSTECH University in Korea, PAL-XFEL in Korea, and SLAC national accelerator laboratory in California. The computer simulations were performed by Giovambattista and Peter H. Poole, professor at St. Francis Xavier University in Canada. The computer simulations played an important role in the interpretation of the experiments since these experiments are extremely complex and some observables are not accessible during the experiments.

8 Comments on "Researchers Prove Water Has Multiple Liquid States With Noticeably Different Properties"

  1. How the hell do you unsubscribe from this bs? I get push notifications at odd bours, there is no unsubscribe option, no app to disable… I tbought it would go to my email… dont subscribe! You cant get rid of it…

  2. Sekar Vedaraman | November 19, 2020 at 12:07 pm | Reply

    Interesting.

    Have always wondered if a solid, liquid or gas retains memory of diiferent states it can existin or has existed in?

    We known that ice , snow flakes, liquid water and steam , water vapour— in its multiple states are fascinating and are in the visible five gross sense field.

    It is an inegral part of existence and is poorly understood. Probably as we limit the same to the five sense and do not look beyond the obvious. Now that Water at minus 63degrees exists as two different liquids , the properties of both these liquids needs to be understod and their behaviour . We are all 70% water, and probably the water we ingest every day has a profound effect on our existence, behaviour and abilities , far beyong the known. Here too the concept of categorization to known-known, known-unknown, unknown – known and unknown-unknown may be interesting.

    We do know that some materails when put under various types of strain, stress can change its form and shape and behave differently. depending on their ability to retain mmemory, when the source of stratin , stress is removed they can re-attain the same shape and form. No reason why water cannot retain memoory which is both short term and long term. Its just that our ability to see this is impaired, as we underestimate the reality of time sacales and the strains, stress, temperature changes, pressure changes such materials can be/ may have been subjected to.

    Always thought the concept of the “liquid metal” villan, in the Hollywood classic Terminator was a fascinating idea! Shape-shifters are common is Science Fiction. A great deal of Science fiction in the last century are Science fact today. The drivers of innovation and invention are not necessarily only the Scientiists but visionaries in every field of knowledge. They question the unquestionable, remimagine the unimagined, rethink the unthinkable, challenge the unchallengable and are revolutionaries who change the world for either the ” Better” or “Worse”, depending on the judgement , moral standards, ethics and prevailing cultures and norms of that civilization.

  3. Leonardo de Navarro | November 19, 2020 at 4:13 pm | Reply

    Shape shifting primarily takes place in the realm of energy.

  4. Why is MIT and Harvard tagged in this article? No researchers from either institution were involved in this research as far as I can tell… also why isn’t there a link slash proper citation for the work that is written about? Seems like promising research but come on Science Daily, elevate yourself beyond laziness and cite the darn journal paper — and tag the right academic institutions!

  5. Ice 9 ???

  6. This is only one end of the scale! Super heating is only as far as steam age got, much further to go,much much further..tokomak will show.

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