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Water Structure and Science

This page forms the entrance to a website concerned with water's physical, chemical, and biological properties.

 

 

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Liquid water is not a bit player in the theatre of life — it is the headline act

 

Water structure = H2O

Many regard water (H2O) as a rather uninteresting substance because it is transparent, odorless, tasteless, and ubiquitous. It is the simplest compound of the two most common reactive elements in the Universe, consisting of just two hydrogen atoms attached to a single oxygen atom. Indeed, very few molecules are smaller or lighter. Liquid water, however, is the most extraordinary material contradicting its apparently simple molecular constituent.

 

Although we drink it, wash, fish, swim in it, and cook with it (although probably not all simultaneously), we nearly always overlook the special relationship it has with our lives. Droughts cause famines, and floods cause death and disease. It makes up over about half of us and, without it, we die within a few days. Liquid water has importance as a solvent, a solute, a reactant, a catalyst, and a biomolecule, structuring proteins, nucleic acid, and cells and controlling our consciousness. H2O is the second most common molecule in the Universe (behind hydrogen, H2), the most abundant solid material and fundamental to star formation. As a hydride, it differs from other gaseous hydrides in not being poisonous or smelly. There is a hundred times as many water molecules in our bodies than the sum of all the other molecules put together, with billions of water molecules per DNA molecule. Life cannot evolve or continue without liquid water, which is why there is so much excitement about finding it on Mars and other planets and moons. Unsurprisingly, water plays a central role in many of the World's Religions. This website discusses many aspects of water science.

 

Water is the most studied material on Earth. However, it is remarkable to find that the science behind its behavior and function are so poorly understood (or even ignored), not only by people in general but also by scientists working with it every day. It can be extremely slippery and extremely sticky simultaneously, and this 'stick/slip' behavior is how we recognize the feel of water. The small size of its molecule belies the complexity of its actions and its unique capabilities. Many attempts to model water as a simple substance have failed and still are failing. Liquid water's unique properties and chameleonic nature seem to fit ideally into the requirements for life, as can no other molecule.

 

Many explanations of the complex behavior of liquid water have been published, with several stirring up considerable controversy. In this website, I have attempted to present and explain these ideas in a self-consistent and balanced manner, which I hope will encourage its understanding and further work.

 

Svalbard; gaseous, liquid and solid water


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Notes.

Text, HTML markup, and images on this website are copyright. The maintenance of this site has no connection with commercial organizations or their products. Please do not copy from this site, or the occasional pirated copies of this site, without proper acknowledgment back to this site. Pirated copies can usually be distinguished by their outdated date stamps.

 

This site represents the author's views, mostly without prior peer review but supported by peer-reviewed papers. It attempts to give an unbiased, neutral point of view. Comments and criticisms are welcomed both by email and by using the Visitors book. I have always guaranteed to publish all submissions via the Visitor's book, only lightly editing their spelling and grammar and removing gratuitous advertisements, spam, or offensive material.

 

Calculations using the Restricted Hartree-Fock wave function (RHF) using the 6-31G** basis set make use of the Hyperchem Professional 8.0 package. To see all the animations, the viewer needs to be java enabled. Jmol is an open-source Java viewer for chemical structures in 3D. Some interactive pages use Chemical Objects for the Web (*.cow) or Jmol (*.pdb) files. The (*.cow) HyperChem Web Viewer (2 MB) is free from Hypercube, Inc. It seems that Internet Explorer 11 may be the easiest program to set up for javascript on Windows 10.

 

If you wish to consult previous versions of this website, there are 796 copies on the Wayback Internet Archive (as of 22 August 2020) archived between October 1 2000 and August 22 2020 (https://web.archive.org/web/*/www.sbu.ac.uk/water/ and https://web.archive.org/web/*/www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/).

 

As at 22 March 2021, this Water Structure and Science website has 54 MB, 314 webpages, 5,050 references, >30,000 links, >320,000 words, >1,800 images, and >120 3-D visualization and animation files. The mean readability is similar to that of the New York Times. The data in this Web site has stood the test of time, with chunks copied into Wikipedia and Chemical Reviews. There are over 2,800 scientific citations of this website, or its predecessor (lsbu.ac.uk/water), from Google Scholar.

 

 


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This page was established in 2000 and last updated by Martin Chaplin on 8 November, 2021

 

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