(ORDO NEWS) — Is there a “fourth phase of water”? From time to time you might see people talk about the health benefits of what is called hexagonal water, or structured water, or exclusion zone (EZ) water.
A few weeks ago, Kourtney Kardashian’s Poosh site had a surge. “structured water filter” worth $2,500. Last weekend, even Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald ran a now-deleted article on the virtues of “structured water.”
So what’s going on?
As a professor of chemistry, I can tell you that “EZ water” is nonsense. But let’s talk about what it should be and how it should work.
What is EZ water?
EZ water originated from the observations of Gerald Pollak, professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington.
He studied the behavior of water near “hydrophilic” surfaces, which are made of materials with a very strong attraction to water.
Pollack found that water repelled things like plastic microspheres, salt, and even dye. molecules from a region close to a very hydrophilic surface.
Pollak explains this behavior by saying that the structure of the water changes in the “exclusion zone”.
While water molecules are made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (with the familiar formula H₂O), Pollack thinks that EZ water has an extra hydrogen atom and an extra oxygen atom (the formula H₃O₂).
This change presumably leads to a negative electrical charge and a multi-layered hexagonal network arrangement of atoms in water.
Hydrophilic surfaces exist in the cells of the human body, which is why some argue that EZ water is “more natural”. than ordinary water, and therefore should have numerous health benefits.
Weak health claims
An article published in the now-deleted Sydney Morning Herald interviewed a supposed expert in the science of water structure named Rob Gurley.
He makes many general claims about structured water: it is more natural, has a negative electrical charge, penetrates our cells faster than regular water, and has many other purported health benefits.
Although the article doesn’t mention it, a quick search reveals Robert Gourlay’s position as “Chief Scientist” at Phi’on, which sells water structuring devices.
From believable to ridiculous
Let’s look at these statements. Some of them are plausible and some are absurd.
We know that near an interface with another substance, water behaves differently because it no longer interacts only with other water molecules. Surface tension is a familiar example of this phenomenon.
We also know that water behaves differently when it is in a very small space, on the scale of billionths of a meter.
Thus, there is little reason to be immediately skeptical of Pollack’s experimental conclusions about the behavior of water in the “exclusion zone”. They are really interesting and many aspects have been replicated.
But explanations for Pollak’s behavior have no basis.
Follow the atoms
If the water was somehow changed into the form H₃O₂, simple arithmetic shows that turning two H₂O molecules into one of H₃O₂ would leave an extra hydrogen atom floating around.
We expect this hydrogen to be released as H₂ gas. Alternatively, the reaction would have to bring in additional oxygen from the air. A simple experiment would show that neither of these occurs.
EZ-water, with all its interesting properties, cannot be anything other than H₂O. Pollack does not propose a structure for H₃O₂ in a peer-reviewed publication, and other explanations have been put forward to explain his published experimental results.
And the hexagonal structure for H₃O₂ that Pollack proposes, if it is stable and rigid, will not flow like a liquid.
Water has no memory
But suppose that the water in the exclusion zone really has some special structure. Can it be bottled and retain its properties?
Everything points to no.
In neutral pH water (neither acidic nor alkaline), about one molecule in every billion has an extra hydrogen atom that has jumped over another molecule. This creates one positively charged H3O + ion and one negatively charged OH – ion.
Additional protons (H + ), which makes H₃O + ions very mobile – they quickly jump from one molecule to another. This happens so fast that each of the hydrogen atoms in a given water molecule is replaced 1,000 times per second.
There is also a momentary attraction between oxygen atoms in one molecule and hydrogen atoms in an adjacent molecule.
Molecule called hydrogen bonds. In liquid water at room temperature, these bonds last only millionths of a millionth of a second.
The rapid movement of the hydrogen atoms and the flashing of the hydrogen bonds means that any structure in the EZ water will dissipate very quickly.
In a mass, water forgot about its neighbors in picoseconds and replaced hydrogen atoms in milliseconds. That’s why it’s liquid.
Experiments using intense laser pulses to destroy the structure of water also show that it is restored within picoseconds.
Thus, any volumetric structure of water that differs from the usual one that flows from our taps does not last much longer than a few millionths of a millionths of a second.
Water is water
So where does all this lead? Simply put, it is impossible to buy any other type of water other than regular water. You can change the pH, you can change the dissolved ions and gases, but not the water itself.
Snake oil vendors selling structured water use scientific-sounding words that are usually nonsensical and based at best on misinterpretation and abuse of Pollack’s experiments.
Pollack distances himself from most companies selling structured water. He has his own structured water company, which sells “unfiltered water filters” among other things
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