From an article written by AZoNano:

Researchers from MIPT and teams in Russia and a few other European nations are the first to realize and record the phenomenon of water molecular dipoles alignment. The researchers achieved this by confining water molecules in nanocages inside a beryl crystal.

The details of the study have been reported in the journal, Nature Communications.

Ferroelectricity is a concept in solid-state physics. The term is used to refer to the property of a material, whose dipole moments, when cooled, arrange themselves in an orderly fashion.

As the dipole moment of the water molecule (H2O) is very large (approximately 1.9 D, where ‘D’ denotes the unit measurement of electric dipole moment, debye) the molecular dipoles in liquid water are expected to interact strongly with each other, align themselves in a particular pattern, and exhibit ferrorelectric behavior.

However, ferrorelectricity does not occur in liquid water, as the molecules are located too closely that any interaction that may occur is dominated by short-range hydrogen bonds, which dampen the long-range dipole–dipole forces.

When water molecules are made to interact with other surfaces or structures, or are confined in sealed cavities of appropriate nanoscale dimensions, there is a significant change in the situation. Under these conditions, the hydrogen bonds can be “redirected” to interactions with these foreign surfaces, and thus, can be diminished. As a result, the interactions of the water dipoles can be brought to the fore.

The scientists developed an unexpected and subtle method of designing conditions where the dipole-dipole interactions of water molecules can be more powerful than the hydrogen bonding.


Image Credit: Authors of the paper

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