We grew up learning that water pretty much exists in three states of matter: Liquid, solid, and gas. Now, it looks like scientists have discovered a whole new state. The discovery comes to us from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (you know, the guys who make are nukes more deadly), so I’m sure that this new discovery will only be used for the betterment of mankind.
This new discovery is actually pretty damned cool. It turns out that when you trap water molecules into really small spaces, like the channels of the mineral beryl, they spread out and take on entirely new shapes.
This type of behavior is the kind of thing that was previously only thought to exist in quantum mechanics. Lead author Alexander Kolesnikov of ORNL’s Chemical and Engineering Materials Division said, “At low temperatures, this tunneling water exhibits quantum motion through the separating potential walls, which is forbidden in the classical world. This means that the oxygen and hydrogen atoms of the water molecule are ‘delocalized’ and therefore simultaneously present in all six symmetrically equivalent positions in the channel at the same time. It’s one of those phenomena that only occur in quantum mechanics and has no parallel in our everyday experience.”
What does “Quantum Tunneling” mean to the world of water as we know it? Well, we won’t be getting fancier ice cubes any time soon, but there’s real hope that this can help researchers better understand the thermodynamic properties of water in confined environments, such as in carbon nanotubes, as well as in various geological conditions.