Physics has revealed the secret of why water conducts electricity

Физики раскрыли секрет того, почему вода проводит ток

The first time scientists have tracked how one water molecule transfers a proton to its “neighbor” and revealed the secret to why water flows the current, and others like it-matter – does not have this property, according to a paper published in the journal Science.

“When the water current passes, the oxygen atoms almost do not have to move. This process can be compared to the famous “cradle” of Newton, a set of dangling balls lined up. If you raise one of them and hit them on the line, only the end balls will move, and the rest will be in place,” says mark Johnson (Mark Johnson) from Yale University (USA).

Distilled water, like many other substances composed of two nonmetallic elements is an insulator, almost impervious to electric current. But if the water to add even a very small number of ions, its electrical conductivity rises sharply and it becomes a conductor. Why water conducts electricity scientists argue for more than two centuries.

In the early 19th century, the German chemist Theodore Grothus proposed a theory that explains why water flows through a current, and why electricity can decompose into hydrogen and oxygen. He considered that water molecules can trap excess protons and transmit them to each other like a baton in a relay race, with the formation of a new hydrogen and covalent bonds and their rapid decay.

As says Johnson, as it flows like “relay” and how are the water molecules involved in the exchange of protons, up to the present time, no one knew, so how can you make sure this process is extremely difficult due to its transience and extremely small scales at which this reaction.

Yale chemists have been able to solve this problem, finding that such reactions are slowed down and become a prominent tool in the performance of two conditions – cooling of a small amount of water molecules near absolute zero and using only the “heavy” water molecules are composed of ordinary oxygen and deuterium, a heavy isotope of hydrogen.

Highlighting such molecules by means of the rays of infrared laser and observing changes in their spectrum, scientists were able to see how the free ions of deuterium joining heavy water, and how they “jump” to an adjacent molecule.

As shown by these observations, these exchanges are not between individual water molecules, and between a kind of “groups” of their molecules that combines four molecules of H2O. This, in General, confirms what was previously suspected by scientists based on computer calculations, but could not prove it in practice.

Further study of this process, as I hope the chemists from Yale, will help to uncover other secrets of water, including its unusually high surface tension, and to understand how such transport of protons affects the functioning of our body and other living beings.