Molecular arrangement in water: Random but not quite

V. Petkov, Y. Ren, M. Suchomel

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43 Scopus citations


Water defines life on Earth from the cellular to the terrestrial level. Yet the molecular level arrangement in water is not well understood, posing problems in comprehending its very special chemical, physical and biological properties. Here we present high-resolution x-ray diffraction data for water clearly showing that its molecular arrangement exhibits specific correlations that are consistent with the presence of rings of H 2O molecules linked together by hydrogen bonds into tetrahedral-like units from a continuous network. This level of molecular arrangement complexity is beyond what a simple two-state model of water (Bernal and Fowler 1933 J. Chem. Phys.1 51548) could explain. It may not be explained by the recently put forward chainsclusters of completely uncorrelated molecules model (Wernet etal 2004 Science 304 9959) either. Rather it indicates that water is homogeneous down to the molecular level where different water molecules form tetrahedral units of different perfection and/or participate in rings of different sizes, thus experiencing different local environments. The local diversity of this tetrahedral network coupled to the flexibility of the hydrogen bonds that hold it together may explain well the rich phase diagram of water and why it responds non-uniformly to external stimuli such as, for example, temperature and pressure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number155102
JournalJournal of Physics: Condensed Matter
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 18 2012


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