Response of Water Molecule in an Electric Field

Gaurav Kumar

water droplets on glass surface
Credit: Pixabay

Water is a very strange, weird, and extraordinary molecule, but still, it is very important for each and every living being and also non-living like soil and many others. The fact is that it is the most abnormal molecule found on the surface of the earth as well as below the earth’s surface. There are many examples that define the abnormality of water. It should not boil at the temperature it does. The solid form of water that is ice expands from its normal state and also floats. It should not have that less surface tension, it must consist of some higher surface tension value. Recently journal Nature released an article on the new weird and the very strange fact of water just like the above given examples. This added a new item in the odd property list of water. This revelation would have a severe impact on several water-related techniques that may include from water purification process to the drug manufacturing process.

Two professors namely, Stephen Cronin and Alexander Benderskii co-researched over the new strange behavior of water. Stephen Cronin is a professor of computer and electrical engineering at the USC Viterbi School and Alexander Benderskii is also an associate professor of chemistry at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. They analyzed that each and every molecule of water did not respond equally when it comes in contact with the electrode surface. This would impact dramatically the dissolving process of several substances in the water subjected to some electric field. This will also impact the determination and occurrence of various chemical reaction processes.

The chemical reaction is a very important component and a requirement for obtaining any material or compound. The outcomes of this result will form a basis for various researches in the field of an electrical engineer as well as a chemist. We all know that chemistry can be defined as the fundamental study of electrons as well as chemical reactions. Each and every material found in our modern world is mostly formed of chemical reactions and electrons. The main objective of any researcher is to provide some contribution to the given research topic. In our case, the main component of the work is contributed by an electric engineer and a chemist. Stephen Cronin, an electric engineer provided the groundbreaking electrode, and Alexander Benderskii, a chemist provided the advanced laser spectroscopy technique that was very necessary to perform the given experiment. The combination of these two given design techniques and the effort of both researchers resulted in a breakthrough observation.

Stephen Cronin developed a specific electrode that is made up of 0.355 nm thick monolayer graphene. It is a very complex task to build an electrode from monolayer graphene. Various groups of researchers attempted to develop such a complex design of electrodes, but all of them failed. Stephen Cronin made a milestone in history by designing such complex electrodes successfully and this electrode is a very essential component of their research on water molecules. Stephen Cronin said that he along with his partner Alexander Benderskii struggled a lot while achieving success on a graphene electrode. They tried and failed several times while designing the electrode but at last, they succeed in their work and the result was very outstanding and exciting according to them. When the graphene electrode is placed in contact with a water molecule and an electric current is passed through them, the work of another technique starts from here that is the special laser spectroscopy technique developed by Alexander Benderskii. The various group of researchers attempted to develop this spectroscopy technique but only a few of them succeeded in their work. According to Alexander Benderskii, he said that when he experimented with the water molecule under the given research condition. He noticed a very strange outcome that the molecules of water interact with the given electric field in a certain way that they have never observed before.

The uppermost layer of the water molecule that was very close to the electrode got aligned in a certain manner that is different as compared to the rest of the molecules of the water. This was an unexpected realization for both of them. However, this opens a gateway for performing accurate simulation for the chemical reaction of various electric field impact the given material. For example, purification of water could be very easy with the help of the outcomes of this research. According to Stephen Cronin, he said that using graphene electrodes for the de-salinization of water would be a key achievement in modern technology for the water purification process. Their research would surely help scientists in developing a faster, cleaner, and cheaper technique for providing people with desalinated fresh and clean water. Stephen Cronin and Alexander Benderskii decided to continue their work collaboration for further research in this field. Since they identified the new strange property of water behavior, they are very eager to deeply investigate their research in the future. Alexander Benderskii said that their research effectively stated the collective response of molecules of water when comes in contact with some electric current field. He also stated that they will surely investigate their research on responses from an individual molecule of water.

Hence the dielectric response of the water molecules changes several aspects of the solvation process and rate of reaction when water is treated with an electric field. Linear proportional polarization of water molecules is observed when it comes in contact with the given electric field. We observed the vibrational frequency of hard water (D2O) when it comes in contact with the monolayer graphene electrode. This controlled electrochemical reaction resulted in strange alignment in the top layer of the water molecules as compared to the rest of the molecules of the water. This can be considered as another strange property of water that is needed to be researched further.


Angelo Montenegro, Chayan Dutta, Muhammet Mammetkuliev, Haotian Shi, Bingya Hou, Dhritiman Bhattacharyya, Bofan Zhao, Stephen B. Cronin, Alexander V. Benderskii. Asymmetric response of interfacial water to applied electric fields. Nature, 2021; 594 (7861): 62 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03504-4 (Main reference).

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