For generations now, we have been taught that water has three states of matter, solid, liquid and gas. These forms are found naturally in nature and are the basis of our understanding of the water.
However, a team of scientists at the Oak Ridge National Lab have conducted an experiment that has revealed a fourth state of water, known as tunnelling.
Tunnelling, more commonly known as Quantum Tunnelling, is a phenomenon in Quantum Mechanics in which a particle is able to tunnel through a barrier, which it normal would not be able to do.
This fourth state was discovered in an experiment, which was carried out in a special six sided cells made from the mineral Beryl. The general use of this mineral is that, it forms the basis for different gemstones, such as emerald and aquamarine.
This six sided cage that we refer to is quite compact in size, using only five atoms to trap a single water molecule. Once trapped, it was observed that the water was able to display tunnelling behavior, which let the atoms in the molecule be delocalised, giving it the ability to be present in all six symmetrically equivalent positions at the same time.
Using Neutron Scattering experiments to further explore this phenomenon, the scientists were able to observe that the water molecules could spread themselves into two corrugated rings, placed as one inside the other.
The hydrogen atom, which is present in the center of the ring, was able to take six different orientations at the same time, thus getting smeared into a ring shape, instead of being located in a single location.
While this discovery is certainly ground breaking, the scientists still have to find a proven explanation for why this phenomenon occurs, and what it’s applications could be, if any.
While we wait for any new developments on this news, you can go ahead and browse the existing research and findings on this phenomenon in the Physical Review Letters Journal, Issue Date – April 22nd.