(ORDO NEWS) — To most people with at least some understanding of physics and technology, it may seem surprising that water, which can shock, is in fact an insulator.
It’s all about impurities. Tap water conducts electricity thanks to the salts it contains. Distilled water, on the other hand, has dielectric properties, because the water molecules themselves are electrically neutral.
Accordingly, to make distilled water a conductor, you need to change its structure so that free electrons appear in it.
This can be achieved by compressing water at a pressure of about 48 megabars. In fact, in this way you can “squeeze” electrons out of water molecules. However, such pressure is unattainable neither in laboratory nor in production conditions. Unfortunately, it can only exist in the cores of very large planets or stars.
Another way to endow water with free electrons is to give it to strangers. This is what the team of researchers working on the BESSY II facility in Berlin has undertaken.
An unusual experiment brought together 11 research institutes from around the world. Scientists decided to donate electrons of alkali metals to water, which easily donate them from the outer shells of their atoms.
The problem was how to combine water with an alkali metal so that it would share its electrons with it. Indeed, under normal conditions, alkali metals, getting into water, hiss, ignite and even explode. Therefore, the researchers did not immerse the metal in water, but applied a thin layer of water to the alkali metal.
An alloy of sodium and potassium dripped from a nozzle inside the vacuum chamber. Let us explain that both of these metals are in a liquid state at room temperature. Then water vapor was fed into the chamber through pipes. It was deposited in an extremely thin layer on metal droplets.
Electrons and cations (atoms deprived of electrons) of metals flowed from the drops into the outer layer of water. The result was water that was conductive. That is, water from a dielectric (poorly conducting current) has turned into metal.
“And you can see the phase transition of water to metal with the naked eye!” Says Robert Seidel, author of the study. “The silvery sodium-potassium droplet becomes distinctly golden, which is very impressive.”
The obtained sample of short-lived metallic water was studied by scientists using optical and synchrotron X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Analysis confirmed that the water had become metal.
“Our study not only shows that metallic water can be produced on Earth, but also has spectroscopic properties associated with its wonderful golden metallic luster,” says Seidel.
The results of an interesting study were published in the journal Nature.
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