While most of the science community is busy following the search for water on Mars, it seems water here on our own boring planet might be more mysterious than we know. Even though you might think that we know all there is to know about water – the compound which makes up around 71% of the Earth’s surface and 60% of the human body – a new discovery has shown evidence for a completely new and unknown state of liquid water.
According to a recent publication by a team of physicists from institutions all over the world, water switches between two distinctly different sets of properties when heated to temperatures between 40 to 60 degrees Celsius (104 ° Fahrenheit to 140 ° Fahrenheit).
To reach this conclusion, the researchers tested properties such as thermal conductivity, how much light refracts in water, electrical conductivity, and surface tension. At certain temperatures, measurements of these properties were observed to consistently “switch” to a new set of values, implying a possible second state of liquid water. According to the researchers’ published data, this completely new liquid state might affect how biological molecules interact with water:
These results confirm that in the 0-100 degrees Celsius range, liquid water presents a crossover temperature in many of its properties close to 50 degrees Celsius. [This discovery] raises the question of whether temperature-driven structural changes in water affect biological macromolecules in aqueous solutions, and in particular in proteins, which are the vital functional biological units in living cells.
This discovery could potentially lead to new methods of creating aqueous solutions such as intravenous medicines, or even to the creation of completely new water-based molecules. Advances in nanotechnology or materials engineering might be possible through taking advantage of the unique properties of this second liquid state of water to create new methods of chemical synthesis. While it might not be as cool as turning water into wine, it’s certainly a breakthrough in the physics world.