Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 
Datenbankrecherche:

 

Illuminating the no-man's land of waters' surface

27.11.2012
Researcher at EPFL proves that the strong electric charge observed at the interface between oil and water is not due to impurities

Water repelling molecules are said to be hydrophobic. The hydration – or formation of water interfaces around hydrophobic molecules – is important for many biological processes: protein folding, membrane formation, transport of proteins across an interface, the transmission of action potentials across membranes. It is involved as well in the process of creating mayonnaise, or in the fact that you can get rid of fat with soap. Hydrophobic interfaces although long studied, are poorly understood.


Nonlinear optics and light diffusion allow to see the unseeable.

Credit: © 2012 EPFL

Here's an amusing kitchen-table experiment to illustrate waters unusual properties: put a drop of pure insulating oil in a glass of pure, non-conducting water, and create an electric field using two wires hooked up to a battery. You'll see the oil move from the negative to the positive pole of the little circuit you've created. You have created charge in a mixture that was neutral, and a huge amount of it too, judging from the speed at which the droplets move. The same thing happens for gas bubbles in water; the phenomenon of charging applies to all hydrophobic/water interfaces.

- A century of debates -

It's not a new discovery; scientists have observed the phenomenon in the middle of the 19th century. But despite more than a century of research, the reason why such a huge electric charge exists is still the subject of heated debate.

In an article published this week in Angewandte Chemie – a journal of reference in the field – EPFL scientist Sylvie Roke challenges a hypothesis put forward last spring in the same journal. With experimental proof to back her up, the holder of the Julia Jacobi chair in photomedicine makes her case: the phenomenon is not caused by the inevitable "impurities" present in oils, as her colleagues claim, but rather by certain intrinsic properties of the water molecules involved.

- Show the unseeable -
For proof, Roke turns to the technologies in which she is an expert – nonlinear optics and light diffusion. Using carefully filtered lasers channeled through a complex circuit of mirrors and lenses, she "hits" her sample – barely a drop – and measures the wavelength of the light that escapes from it. With this she can detect whether or not there are nanoscopic molecules on the interface between the oil and the water.

The precision of the observations "shows that negative charges exist even in a total absence of surface impurities, and thus the explanation put forward by my colleagues, which was derived from charge measurements and chemical titrations of the bulk liquids, doesn't hold up," says Roke. "We have developed a unique apparatus that can distinctly measure the interfacial structure of a layer on the sub-nanometer length scale that surrounds a droplet of oil in water. Thus, we can 'see' what is on the interface, and do not have to deduce it from comparing bulk properties, which is far less accurate."

Disproving a hypothesis isn't enough to explain a phenomenon, however. Roke is studying a promising avenue, that explores the intrinsic quantum nature of the water molecule itself, which might be responsible for the phenomenon. "The measurements we've made as part of this refutation could be used to try and prove this explanation," she says. "It's fascinating, because quantum effects (the smallest of the smallest) might be responsible for macroscopic charging effects that influence so many properties that relate to the functioning of the human body."

Sylvie Roke | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.epfl.ch

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials
17.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes

nachricht Black hole spin cranks-up radio volume
15.01.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Ein Atom dünn: Physiker messen erstmals mechanische Eigenschaften zweidimensionaler Materialien

Die dünnsten heute herstellbaren Materialien haben eine Dicke von einem Atom. Sie zeigen völlig neue Eigenschaften und sind zweidimensional – bisher bekannte Materialien sind dreidimensional aufgebaut. Um sie herstellen und handhaben zu können, liegen sie bislang als Film auf dreidimensionalen Materialien auf. Erstmals ist es Physikern der Universität des Saarlandes um Uwe Hartmann jetzt mit Forschern vom Leibniz-Institut für Neue Materialien gelungen, die mechanischen Eigenschaften von freitragenden Membranen atomar dünner Materialien zu charakterisieren. Die Messungen erfolgten mit dem Rastertunnelmikroskop an Graphen. Ihre Ergebnisse veröffentlichen die Forscher im Fachmagazin Nanoscale.

Zweidimensionale Materialien sind erst seit wenigen Jahren bekannt. Die Wissenschaftler André Geim und Konstantin Novoselov erhielten im Jahr 2010 den...

Im Focus: Forscher entschlüsseln zentrales Reaktionsprinzip von Metalloenzymen

Sogenannte vorverspannte Zustände beschleunigen auch photochemische Reaktionen

Was ermöglicht den schnellen Transfer von Elektronen, beispielsweise in der Photosynthese? Ein interdisziplinäres Forscherteam hat die Funktionsweise wichtiger...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: Erstmalige präzise Messung der effektiven Ladung eines einzelnen Moleküls

Zum ersten Mal ist es Forschenden gelungen, die effektive elektrische Ladung eines einzelnen Moleküls in Lösung präzise zu messen. Dieser fundamentale Fortschritt einer vom SNF unterstützten Professorin könnte den Weg für die Entwicklung neuartiger medizinischer Diagnosegeräte ebnen.

Die elektrische Ladung ist eine der Kerneigenschaften, mit denen Moleküle miteinander in Wechselwirkung treten. Das Leben selber wäre ohne diese Eigenschaft...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

IHR
JOB & KARRIERE
SERVICE
im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics
Veranstaltungen

DFG unterstützt Kongresse und Tagungen - März 2018

17.01.2018 | Veranstaltungen

2. Hannoverscher Datenschutztag: Neuer Datenschutz im Mai – Viele Unternehmen nicht vorbereitet!

16.01.2018 | Veranstaltungen

Fachtagung analytica conference 2018

15.01.2018 | Veranstaltungen

 
VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Projekt "HorseVetMed": Forscher entwickeln innovatives Sensorsystem zur Tierdiagnostik

17.01.2018 | Agrar- Forstwissenschaften

Seltsames Verhalten eines Sterns offenbart Schwarzes Loch, das sich in riesigem Sternhaufen verbirgt

17.01.2018 | Physik Astronomie

Ein Atom dünn: Physiker messen erstmals mechanische Eigenschaften zweidimensionaler Materialien

17.01.2018 | Physik Astronomie