Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Probe Water's Mysterious Interactions At Molecular Level

Date:
April 17, 2008
Source:
European Science Foundation
Summary:
Some of the most challenging problems in science concern the behavior of the most commonplace compound on the planet's surface -- water. But some of the mysteries are now being unravelled by the latest analysis and imaging techniques in an unfolding story that was presented at a recent conference organized by the European Science Foundation focusing on interaction between water and other compounds at the molecular level.

Some of the most challenging problems in science concern the behaviour of the most commonplace compound on the planet’s surface - water. But some of the mysteries are now being unravelled by the latest analysis and imaging techniques in an unfolding story that was presented at a recent conference organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF) focusing on interaction between water and other compounds at the molecular level.

Some of the greatest puzzles involve the interaction between molecules of water and other compounds as they come into proximity. These problems are not purely academic, because they have vital implications for understanding many important processes and biochemical reactions within organisms, some of them implicated in human disease. The molecular properties of water also have great importance for materials science, nanotechnology, and the semiconductor industry.

The underlying problem is that at the molecular level the behaviour of water and particularly interactions with other substances is extremely complex, and correspondingly difficult to explain in a few words. Before some of the exotic effects can be exploited, they must be thoroughly understood, and this in turn depends upon being able to observe the processes in some way. A major focus of the ESF conference was on new techniques for revealing information about the behaviour of water at the molecular scale in different circumstances, according to the conference’s chair Marie-Clare Bellissent-Funel. “Various techniques were used to reveal information of water at solid, soft, vapour, protein, membrane, and other interfaces,” she said.  

High resolution x-ray diffraction is an important technique for analysing water molecules at interfaces, observing the way high-energy x-ray beams are scattered at the points of interaction. The location and orientation of individual water molecules can be detected that way, and already a lot has been learned about the crucial role played by them in critical biochemical reactions, including those involving docking or interactions between proteins. Water molecules also play a crucial role in ushering key components of biology such as metal ions into cells through permeable membranes, and details of further progress understanding the processes involved were presented at the conference. “The understanding of such events could find application in development of medication and design of nanofluidic devices,” said Bellissent-Funel.

Such events can only be properly understood by analysing not just the static structure at a point in time, but the dynamic changes over time, and emerging techniques for this were also discussed at the ESF conference, as Bellissent-Funel pointed out. This is difficult to do at present purely by observation, but progress has been made by combining experiments with computer based simulations.

Such simulations incorporate a description of the unusual geometry of the water molecule, which is the source of all the strange and important properties of water. The molecule comprises an oxygen atom with two hydrogen atoms hanging off like Mickey Mouse ears. This gives the molecule an uneven distribution of electric charge, enabling it readily to form weak but significant hydrogen bonds with molecules of both water and other compounds.

Computer models are also being used to simulate behaviour of solutions, in which hydrogen bonds between molecules of water and the solute (substance being dissolved) prevent the latter conglomerating and therefore precipitating out. This is a function of water’s “interaction potential”, which means the ability or tendency of water molecules to form hydrogen bonds with other molecules. The ability to simulate the behaviour of interactions between water and solute molecules, rather than just between water molecules, represents an important development, said Bellissent-Funel.

The overall complexity of water interface physics was reflected at the ESF conference by the breadth and depth of the presentations, and also by the fact that key speakers were drawn from all over the world, including the US and Japan.  But Bellissent-Funel emphasised that Europe had growing strengths and has been successful in recruiting new talent into this dynamic, challenging, and hugely promising field, even attracting some from outside the continent. “It was clear from the short contributions and posters that there is an impressive set of young researchers in this general area, and also that some of them come originally from outside Europe,” said Bellissent-Funel. A key point is that these researchers by necessity span a range of disciplines across the whole scientific spectrum, reflecting the fundamental importance of water science.

The conference, “Water Interfaces in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, A Multidisciplinary Approach”, was held at Universitätszentrum Obergurgl at Ötz Valley, near Innsbruck, Austria in December 2007.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Science Foundation. "Scientists Probe Water's Mysterious Interactions At Molecular Level." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080411101936.htm>.
European Science Foundation. (2008, April 17). Scientists Probe Water's Mysterious Interactions At Molecular Level. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080411101936.htm
European Science Foundation. "Scientists Probe Water's Mysterious Interactions At Molecular Level." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080411101936.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Stocks Hit All-Time High as Fed Holds Steady

Stocks Hit All-Time High as Fed Holds Steady

AP (Sep. 17, 2014) — The Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday that it plans to keep a key interest rate at a record low because a broad range of U.S. economic measures remain subpar. Stocks hit an all-time high on the news. (Sept. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — MIT developed a robot modeled after a cheetah. It can run up to speeds of 10 mph, though researchers estimate it will eventually reach 30 mph. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) — Automobile manufacturer Local Motors created a drivable electric car using a 3-D printer. Printing the body only took 44 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins